Innovative Design: Incredible passing key to Jets' lethal power play

Ian McLaren
Terrence Lee / USA Today Sports

There are plenty of reasons why the Winnipeg Jets are flying high these days, but perhaps none more important than their success on the power play.

With a win over Ottawa on Sunday, Winnipeg moved into a tie with Tampa Bay for the most points in the NHL (38), and the two teams are rolling at an almost level clip with the man advantage - the Lightning enjoy a 27.8 percent success rate, while the Jets barely trail at 27.4.

Winnipeg's opening goal Sunday against the Senators came on a power play less than three minutes into the first period, and served as the game-winner. It also demonstrated lethal passing and a finish that's becoming commonplace.

Here's how it went down.

The play began just inside the offensive zone, with Dustin Byfuglien (33) making a short pass to Mark Scheifele (55), who - with Ottawa's Cody Ceci (5) in his face - sent a cross-ice pass to Blake Wheeler (26).

Wheeler and Byfuglien then went to work at the top of the zone, spurred by a short chip pass from the former to the latter with Tom Pyatt (10) aggressively tracking both players.

Byfuglien actually had to take the pass off his skate as Pyatt turned his focus from Wheeler to the blue line.

Able to gather the puck off his skate and maintain possession, Byfuglien held off Pyatt's dogged forecheck, kept the puck in the zone and got it back to Wheeler along the boards. Meanwhile, with all the Senators' defenders tuned in to that back-and-forth, Scheifele was sneaking toward the net.

Wheeler quickly saw added pressure from Johnny Oduya (29), but neither he nor Pyatt could stop the winger from making a quick cross-ice pass to Scheifele, who still had not drawn Ottawa's attention.

Here we note Scheifele was playing on his off wing, and received Wheeler's pass on his backhand rather than attempt a one-timer, giving goalie Mike Condon more time to get across the crease in an attempt to thwart a scoring opportunity.

Still, Scheifele was able to get the puck to his forehand and fire it past Condon short-side.

It should also be noted that Patrik Laine (29) was set up more in the middle of the ice throughout this play, thereby demanding a healthy measure of coverage due to his lethal shot and allowing Scheifele to remain largely unchecked.

The full play can be seen here.

The goal was Scheifele's 14th of the season, six of which have come on the power play. Wheeler added another assist later in the game to give him 13 power-play helpers, while eight of Byfuglien's 13 have also come on the man advantage.

Interestingly, Scheifele's previous PPG came on a similar play against Minnesota on Nov. 27, but that time he was able to convert a Wheeler cross-ice pass with a one-timer past Alex Stalock.

Having Scheifele set up in the left circle as a right-hand shot is clearly by design, and head coach Paul Maurice is being rewarded with regular production thanks to this type of deployment.

(Images courtesy: NHL.com)