Well, good question. I am not a power play expert (in all my coaching philosophies/strategies, I probably have the least confidence in my ability to craft an effective power play...I let my players have a lot of freedom out there but with a few requirements). I like a lot of movement on the power play, the mistake some coaches and players make is that they believe the power play or penalty kill is not the same game as hockey. Which is strange to say, but some people believe "well, it's a power play...so this happens" - but it's important to realize the same hockey principles apply. Standing around and passing it around the perimeter of the ice is not hockey - that's a waste of time and opportunity.
You have to have at least two good, working power plays in my estimation. And since I've never coached an NHL team, I would have to believe you'll need more in the show. The copycat league has created a situation where there are lot more aggressive penalty kill teams (it's called aggressive because it continues to play hockey, instead of standing in a box watching passes go around you) so you have to be ready for that and assume that will be the case.
Puck poise, smarts, recovery ability have to be ready on the backend. Kris Letang checks out for that at least. With all that skill, there is no excuse not to get everyone touching the puck. The puck and player movement has to be quick and it has to penetrate and move quickly from the strong side to the weak side without too much risk out high. A couple points I would try to touch on - maybe not all in one power play, but in my overall power play strategy.
- Staal in the slot, down low, and in front. Big body, good shooter, quick stick, savvy in traffic.
- We can utiliize the area behind the net as a threat. There should be some time behind the net for a Sidney Crosby to create and it will suck the penalty kill down low and if one venturesome little ragamuffin wants to attack Crosby back there, it should either open up the slot (Staal) a bank pass for Letang, or you slide down another player on the weak side behind the net (Malkin/Neal) and get puck movement out of that. Passing on the power play, and I stress this to all of my young players especially - passing on the power play is not for the sake of passing, it's to open up more challenging lanes that lead to quality scoring chances - passing it listlessly just pass it is just playing with yourself...
- High deflection. By that I mean, instead of setting up a deflection down right in front of the goalie and dealing with the battle and having your stick tied up and all that abuse. Sit Staal in the soft spot in coverage, get the puck to Letang or Malkin on the point or whatever and put it off Staal's stick a little higher and then from the weak side shoot Neal in from the corner on a timing play to dig for trash if doesn't go in.*
* - Illustration. Letang at the point, Staal just at or below the hashmarks or thereabouts, Neal down near the icing line in the opposite corner of Letang...Letang releases, off Staal's stick, the deflection will focus the eyes of both d-men towards the front of their own net, meanwhile Neal has shot in from the corner where he'll be able to bully his way in there and put in a rebound if necessary or retrieve the puck - in which an avenue should be set up where he can push the puck on his forehand into the corner in which he is facing. Meaning, he can either come in and slam the puck home or slam the puck into the corner in which only a Penguin is occupying...
So Staal can have a lot of different roles on the power play, I have them all being in the hashmarks or lower, but that's where money is made. That's just my quick ideas on the subject, without bringing out my board, it's difficult to go into more detail. But you can get him involved easily. Giving him his "own" power play unit with TK or DJ or whoever isn't helping anyone...that's just stupid.