What Is a Power Play in Hockey? Know The Rule of Power Play in Hockey

The term ‘power play’ is related to almost every sport. Any person who loves sports and games might familiar with this phrase. But, those who are new as spectators might get confused about the phrase. It is a sporting term that refers to when one team has some specific advantages due to a rule violation by the opposing team. This happens in almost every game. But what about ice hockey? How does it look like when a power play is treated in hockey? This term may confuse many beginners of ice hockey or who are new as hockey spectators.

What Is a Power Play in Hockey

As a sports lover, I try to share some tips or explain terms to you people from my experiences. So, here I will discuss all you need to know about power play in hockey. If you want to know more, read further for more information.

What Is a Power Play in Hockey?

The rule of power play is similar to ice hockey and ground hockey. Generally, the power play is when one team gets a penalty, which results in them playing with one or two lesser players for a limited period. In this period, another team can play with more players than the other team.

If I explain briefly, suppose team A and team B are playing a hockey match. A team player intentionally or knowingly breaks any regulation or creates any violation such as slashing, cross-checking, roughing, spearing, elbowing, kneeing, and tripping or interference with any players of the opposite team, he will get punishment. But, players do not use the word punishment; instead, sporting people call it a penalty. The player who got a penalty from team A must leave the course and sit on a specific penalty box for a limited time. At this time, team B gets the opportunity of playing with more players than team A. This limited period is a golden chance for team B to score goals easily.

When a team gets the chance to power play, the coach usually sends the best offensive players. The power play is a kind of power to score more goals and prove the team’s strength. So, here are some more tips to make this period more worthy of making the game favorable for your team.

  • Protect the puck and keep your skates moving
  • Avoid over-stickhandling the puck.
  • Try to limit making long passes.

How does a team get a power play?

We understood what the power play rule is in hockey. But, knowing how a team gets the power play is also essential. Hockey is considered one of the most fantastic sports in the world. Similar to every other game, you also have to follow some rules in this sport. You can not do whatever you won’t or can’t play. However you want. One of the main protocols of hockey is to abide by and respect all the rules and regulations with discipline.

When a player goes against one of the particular rules, the referee will call him for a penalty. Receiving a penalty is never satisfactory to any team or players. If a player receives a penalty, he must get oust from the match for a specific time and go to the penalty box. The penalty box is such a particular place on the arena where players who got penalties sit for a limited time. The motive is to keep him away from the game for a specific time due to his breaking the rule. The designated time of power play depends on the penalty the player incurs. Most of the time, the time of the penalty is for two minutes. Nevertheless, getting a penalty of two to five minutes is possible if the player does severe infractions.

As per the rule of power play, it is not allowed to replace the player serving a penalty for that period of penalty time on the ice. During a power play, a player is kept in the penalty box for giving a man-advantage to the other team. So the team got a penalty and can’t replace another player from his team with the player who got a penalty on the ice. The team will be shorthanded as long the penalty time goes on or until the opposite team scores a goal. In easy words, the power play is the advantage of playing with more players when the opposing team gets the penalty.

What does a power play look like on the ice?

Hockey is usually played with two teams consisting of five players without the goalie in each. Among these five players, two are defensive players, two are forward players, and one is center players. In addition to these five players, each team has one goalkeeper to defend the opposite team from recording a goal. Both teams have an equal number of players in a standard game.

Now imagine the scenario of a power play on the ice. If a player gets a penalty from team A, as per the rule, team A will lack of one player more than team B. That means the game will be five players of team B versus four players of team A. This mismatch of players creates a potential opportunity to score goals for team B.

What if a team gets more than one penalty in a single match? What do you think will happen? Will players, one by one, will go to the penalty box, and only the goalie will remain on a team? Will the match be held as one goalie versus five players? No, that’s not going to happen because a maximum of two players can go to the penalty box if more than one penalty occurs as per NHL’s rule. That means, in a power play, the team gets a penalty can have a minimum of three players on the ice. To make it more straightforward, let’s look at the possibilities of different power-play combinations given below.

  • Five players of team A versus four players of team B.
  • Five players of team A versus three players of team B.
  • Four players of team A versus three players of team B.

Here’s a thing to note: if both teams get a penalty, no power play will happen as the number of players will be the same. But, if one team gets more than one penalty, and the other one gets one penalty, then the power play will happen between 4 players versus three players.

Four Power Play Strategies

When a team has power play, they have to follow some strategies for recording some extraordinary performance. NHL has declared and approved four power-play methods. These strategies are The Umbrella, The Overload, The 1-3-1, and The Spread.

The Umbrella

It is the most used and common power play strategy of the NHL. In this strategy, three players take positions in such a way near the blue line to look like a high triangle. The remaining two players stand low in the slot parallel to the goal line. Sometimes, few coaches guide the two players for low forwarding. The motive of this strategy is to get the puck to the middle of the ice. The three players would pass the puck at the half-board or one of the other point players for shots. The other two players’ responsibility is to set up deflections and get to the net for rebounds.

This strategy prevents shorthanded team breaks. It also helps the team keep the puck into the zone for an extended time. Again, this strategy outnumbers penalty killers in the high slot.

The Overload

This power play formation is not seen often nowadays, although it was very popular pre-lockout. However, some skilled teams follow the formation even now, which we had seen mostly in the Jagr/Renney years. The strategy aims to outnumber the opposing team and the half board, creating a lot of three on two scenarios and continuously rotating the puck, which results in defensive breakdowns.

One forward player takes position from below the goal line on the firm side for setting up the overload strategy, and the other forward player stands open in the mid slot on the weak side. In contrast, the other three players as defensemen, take a blue line position and provide behind coverage.

The only disadvantage of this formation is that if you can’t create quality scoring chances and can’t get the flow going, fans ultimately lose patience, and your game also can be affected negatively.

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The 1-3-1

Though this 1-3-1 strategy started in Europe, it will soon become the next popular NHL strategy. Players create four triangles at four different areas, such as half boards, the point, below, or the blue-line, to pass around the puck and take one-timer shots. This formation is beneficial because the defense focuses on the middle players, which causes the PK to shrink. The only problem with this formation is every player of this strategy has to be extremely skilled with the pluck.

The Spread

Also known as the 2-1-2 formation, this strategy’s motive is overrunning the slot with forwarding players and outnumber penalty killers down low. Typically, players use this formation five-on-three games. This strategy is being used very little in matches because it creates trouble for the PK. The point players abandon defending the blue-line in this formation, which allows the defensemen to come in for one-timers. Moreover, if a penalty killer moves to defend a point player, it can leave someone open in the slot for a backdoor play.

How much of an advantage does a power-play make?

Any doubt, anyone can say that a power play is undoubtedly a benefit for a hockey team. If we look into the previous records of NHL matches, we will get a clearer idea about how much a power play positively affects a game. In the 2018-19 NHL season, a team, Nashville Predators ranged up from a low of 12.9% to a high of 28.2%, the Tampa Bay Lightning, due to the power-play efficiency. By now, I hope you know that the power play efficiency means the percentage of time a team scores when they get the power play. In the 2018-19 season, the average league scoring on the power play was 19.7%. In total, the league secured 19.3% of the total goals of the season on the power play, which is certainly a pretty good number if we compare the amount of time. A power-play takes much less time than a standard match where both teams play with the equal allotment.

While the training and preparation sessions, coaches always ask players to concentrate on special teams’ performance. We mean ‘special teams’ as the power play and penalty killing together. While scoring in the NHL seems too complicated and challenging, the power play is the golden opportunity to turn the table. If a team can manage to score at least one goal on the power play, the chances of winning that particular team increase to the next extent.

How does the power play end?

So far, we discussed starting the power play, but you yet to know about how the period of power play ends. Generally, a power-play can end either of three ways.

  1. When the team got the power play scores: It is the first way to end a power play. A minor power play usually ends at the moment when the team got power-play scores a goal. If a team gets the advantage of a minor penalty, they will get 2 minutes of power play. If they can’t record a score, the power play continues for two minutes. But, if a team gets the advantage of a major penalty, they will get five minutes of power play, and along with this, the power play will continue till the five minutes. Within this time, the team can score as many goals as they can.
  2. Penalty served in full: This is another way to end the power play. It a means to an end the power play once it is served whole and the penalized player comes back on the ice from the penalty box. This rule is as per the basics of power play. In a minor penalty, if a team can’t score any goal, the penalty will be served for two times longer, and thus the period of power play will end.
  3. The team on the Power Play takes a penalty: It makes both teams even. In easy words, when the team on the power play takes a penalty from a player of theirs, one of their players also goes to the penalty box, which is according to the power play rule. Imagine a match is happening between 5 on four players. The team on power play also got a penalty during the power play period. So, one of their players went to the penalty box. Ultimately the match becomes a four-on-four round. That means the number of players of both teams becomes even. And, when both teams have the same number of players, a power-play doesn’t occur.

So, this was all about Power play in hockey. Wrapping it up lets me answer one of the questions I get about power play if the power play starts at the end of the match. Well, if it remains only two minutes or less to end the first or second period of the game, the penalty will carry over to the start of the next period. If the period has last one minute left, then one minute of power-play will happen in that particular period, and the remaining one or four minutes will carry on to the next period. If a player goes to the penalty box at the last moment of the third period, then the power play will continue until the game ends. If any time remains of the power play, it won’t carry over to the next match.


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