Perry Pearn is in his second year as an assistant coach with the Jets and runs the team’s Penalty Kill. Though he shared those duties last season, his individual work has given the group a small bump in the numbers from a 23rd ranked, sub-80% nightmare to a 15th ranked 83%. But more interestingly, we’re also seeing an innovative formation on the Jets’ penalty kill I’m terming a Weak-Side Overload.
Who is Perry Pearn?
Perry Pearn might be best known at the NHL level for being let go by Montreal right around this time of year in 2011. Assistant Coaches don’t often get a lot of attention in the media, after all.
For our older readers, and those from Alberta, he might be rememberd for his time at the head of the Ooks of Northern Alberta’s Institute of Technology (NAIT). He coached there for 14 years, with 6 National CCHA titles, 6 ACAC Coach of the Year awards, one CCHA Coach of the Year award, and an undefeated season in 1984/85. The Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference might sound like small potatoes, but the ACAC boasted Clare Drake, Mike Babcock, Mike Johnston and other big-name coaches during those 14 years.
He’s not new to this frozen pond stuff.
Centre-Post Umbrella Powerplay
We don’t have the space to cover a full evolution of the Umbrella in this article, but we owe the Sedins a ‘Builder’ credit for their work with the hybrid overload-umbrella. Their success has led to some variations we maybe wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
A little Hockey 101: A traditional umbrella looks something like this:
Three shooters along the top, the puck moving back and forth to spread out the top two defenders. Around the net is traffic, but traffic organized to have a screen or tip for shots from the wings. Each of those players is also responsible for puck retrieval and re-cycles to the corners.
It’s rare that you see a plain old traditional umbrella any more at the NHL level, but some purists believe that if you put shooters at each half-wall on their off-handed sides, you can get 30′ shots with a screen and back-door rebound support. That has value, and almost all teams have some form of the umbrella in their repertoire.
Recently, we’ve see a number of teams take on this variant, called a Centre-Post Umbrella:
We have the top three in their traditional positions, but the two forwards in the middle are organized vertically. Enstrom (39), Wheeler (26), and Ladd (16) form a line down the centre, like the centre-post of an umbrella.
The purpose of the formation is two-fold. One, it controls the expansion and movement of the PK by creating two new threats: the shot from the top of the formation (Enstrom) is much more dangerous with a double screen or tip; and there is man standing in the most dangerous ice. The extra threats force a more conservative PK. Defenders have to respect all three shots, and can’t attack the puck too aggressively, lest they leave space behind them.
Second, it encourages breakdowns. With a man standing right in the middle, a box-PK is not only out-numbered along the top of the umbrella, there is a defender at the bottom who is just being wasted. If anyone floats into the middle, though, the box is broken.
But a box isn’t the only option. If you were to flip through an old Hockey Canada coaching binder, you might find tell of a "Diamond" patterned defence to the umbrella, looking a little like this:
It pressures all three primary shooters and is generally intended to prevent clean shots. Again, no teams default to a static diamond, but a team might show diamond to force the offence to put the play into the corner for a cycle, and then rotate back to a box, or even try to win the battle in the corner by isolating the puck carrier with an overload.
But if a team shows a diamond against the Centre-Post Umbrella, it would look a little like this:
A shooter in the slot with time and space? Deadly.
The Pearn Innovation
The Capitals used the Centre-Post Umbrella and Pearn had the Jets in a flattened, or collapsed diamond against it. At times, it looked more like a 1-3 defence.
But watch Clitsome (24) move with Johansson (90) to the front of the net as the puck moves to the top of the umbrella.
Byfuglien (33) is playing tight to the man in the slot (Brouwer, 20), Clitsome tight to Johannson, Wright (17) is in the shooting lane, and Kane (9) is guarding the back door against Ovechkin (8).
Remember how we talked about that back-door rebound support? Kane is there to take it away. All Pavelec has to do (in theory) is make a save should the shot get through. Everyone in a rebound area is covered.
Still, being down a man comes with choices.
As you’ve likely noticed, there is a very open shooter at the bottom of the image (Backstrom, 19). Pearn has chosen to actually leave that shooter alone to protect the back-door instead. Backstrom has to slide up so that Wright can’t control the passing lane, but once he has the puck, he’s left alone on his wing.
The focus is to prevent that shot down the middle and play the rebound. The Jets are taking away the most dangerous parts of the Centre-Post Umbrella, but they are intentially leaving one player with room:
I’m not sure what Perry Pearn is calling this, but I’m going to dub it the Weak-Side Overload PK.
Did it work?
There’s no short answer here, and your mileage will vary on this particular PK. But the stats for the night are very interesting.
On the night, the Jets held the best powerplay in the league two years running to just 1 goal on 5 attempts. They also held it to 8 shots, which is a positive considering they have chosen to open up a shooter in order to defend the rebound in this defense scheme.
The Jets also had 14 shot attempts while short handed. That’s the same number as the Capitals managed on the powerplay. That’s remarkable.
Nevertheless, to my eye at least, their success in breaking up the PP came mostly in the neutral zone, where they continue to employ a 1-3 with pressure at the blue line. That pressure created turnovers, one of which went for a SH goal.
Once the Capitals gained the zone, it was a different story. Their one powerplay goal came from Brouwer in that middle area on a rebound (albeit one Bogosian gloved into a scoring area), the very play Pearn is trying to defend. And that open shooter? He created a lot.
Let’s look at the sustained pressure on the first powerplay:
Wright saves a goal on that weak-side box out against Ovechkin. That’s a goal in any other PK formation. But until the Jets can get the puck into the corner and go into an overload to isolate the puck carrier, they are just tempting fate. Backstrom eventually figures out he has room and starts attacking from much closer to the net.
The Bottom Line
The Jets’ PK under Perry Pearn is definitely not traditional. We don’t often see teams overloading the side without the puck, and it’s unheard of when you’re already down a man. He’s considered his goaltender’s penchant for rebounds, and taken away the most dangerous plays that come from the trendy Centre-Post Umbrella.
The overload pressure in the corners is also creating turnovers like the one we see at the end of the video. We’ll cover the PK formation in the neutral zone another time, but it has been perhaps the most effective part of the Penalty Kill to date. All together, the Jets lead the league in corsi % while playing shorthanded at an outrageous 30.5%.
For all that’s going wrong in Winnipeg this season, the Jets are lucky to have Pearn.