Jim Hiller confident Red Wings can improve power play

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — One area where the Red Wings would like to — and need to — improve is the power play.

The Red Wings ranked 18th in the league last year with a success rate of 17.7 percent. Then in the playoffs against Boston, they bottomed out, converting only 2-for-20 (10 percent) of their opportunities.

Jim Hiller, one of coach Mike Babcock's new assistant coaches, has been given the task of improving the unit. With the offensive personnel on hand, and a little tweaking, Hiller is confident the Red Wings will be more dangerous.

"The strength of this team is we're going to have two strong groups," Hiller said. "We have a lot of depth of scoring up front."

What Hiller wants to establish is having more Red Wings players at the net — more players than the opposition — and retrieving pucks, which the Red Wings have struggled at in recent seasons.

The Red Wings have been using a diamond-like formation during the exhibition season, better they believe, to achieving their two objectives.

In the set, the Red Wings have one point man who has been stationed near the middle of the blue line. There are two wingers on the opposite half-walls, one player in the high slot and another player at the net-front.

"We want to be aggressive at their net-front,' Hiller said. "When the puck gets to their net, we want to have more players then they do.

"To create more chances, you have to get the puck back once you're there. It's outnumbering at the net for your goal-scoring chances, and outnumbering so we can get it back and start over again."

The set also leads to a little more movement and motion, getting the defense out of position and moving, and creating shooting lanes.

The players on the half-walls, the flankers, can be more aggressive and have room to attack.

"The ability to shift from low to high from one side to the other, and the ability to have people at the net, is better than it was," Babcock said.

Players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist have all reacted positively during the exhibition season to the changes.

"Everybody is buying into it," Kronwall said. "The main thing about it is we want to attack as often as possible and get the puck to the net."

Said Nyquist; "It's about getting to the inside. I don't want to say too much (giving the secrets away) but there have been some good chances (during exhibition play)."

With scouting as sophisticated as it is these days, and so much video preparation, attacking a good penalty kill is difficult.

Simple hard work and dedication are as important as any skill on a given power play.

"I see the great work Tony (Granato, the Red Wings' other assistant coach) puts in with our penalty-kill guys," Hiller said. "It comes down to having people at the net. Gritting it out and who wants the puck more."