JC Lipon had two first-period goals in Kamloops' win over Kelowna Sunday night. His third was a little unconventional. With Rockets centre Colton Sissons already in the box for interference, Damon Severson took a two-minute elbowing minor giving the Blazers a 1:15-long two-man advantage and a chance to ice the contest.
What followed was a power-play formation that flew in the face of hockey wisdom. A standard setup for a team with a two-man advantage will be to have two point men, two players near the goal mouth and a big body in front of the net. The purpose is to get the puck into the slot and create rebounds and screens.
[Highlights of the game (including the goal at 1:55) can be found at the Blazers' website. The above image is a screenshoot from the highlight package]
"I saw an NHL game, a power play in Florida with Pittsburgh, and they nearly killed off a five-on-three. The extra guy was clogging the slot," said Guy Charron post-game about what led him to his new formation. Watching the Penguins kill off over a minute of the 5-on-3 without leaving their zone or giving up any scoring chances led Charron to think about ways he could improve his own power-play formations.
Charron's new idea brought JC Lipon much higher up into the slot than he would have normally played. Blazer defenceman Joel Edmundson and centre Brendan Ranford were at the points, with Canadiens prospect Tim Bozon and Avalanche prospect Colin Smith at the side of the net. There wasn't a player fighting for space and the Blazers appeared to be working the puck quickly to open up a shot with no traffic in front.
"We wanted to open up a point shot, or maybe the low guys would have opened up," said Charron. "There's no set play for us on a power play."
Coaches in the WHL tend to not have a lot of leeway to try too many different things, but the Blazers are a little ahead of the rest of the league when it comes to experimentation. Charron also mentioned the importance of video scouting in that "every team uses it now" and they have to find new ways to constantly beat the opposition. After taking over a team in the midst of a playoff win drought, Charron's Blazers won the WHL's B.C. Division title last season and their win over Kelowna put them three points out of first place.
After moving the puck between Ranford, Edmundson and Bozon, the Blazers were able to set up Lipon for a shot right at the top of the slot. There was no screen by a Blazer or a Rocket player. Goaltender Jordon Cooke saw it all the way. But what was emphasized about the powerplay was getting a good shot away, not just a shot Cooke couldn't see. Lipon's goal was his third of the night and 34th on the season and Charron's new 5-on-3 formation took just :18 seconds to prove pretty efficient. No bells and whistles, no set play, no screen, just a good solid shot.