If you were to look at which Hurricanes forwards are creating the most scoring chances on the powerplay relative to their ice time, you'll see some familiar names. Jussi Jokinen, Eric Staal and Tim Brent. Wait, Tim Brent? The guy who we signed to center our fourth line and play on the penalty kill? Well, it's true. Brent trails only Jussi Jokinen in powerplay scoring chances per ice time with 9.64 chances per 15 mins. He only has a goal and an assist while playing with the man advantage but he's been creating scoring chances and has been on ice for eight powerplay goals. Muller's done some interesting things with the lineup and adding Brent to the powerplay is one that seems to be paying off.
Brent was used sparingly on the powerplay in Toronto last year so this isn't anything new to him but the general thought among Carolina fans that Brent's role would be limited to the fourth line and penalty kill. He's still the team's fourth line center but if you look at his special teams ice time, you'll notice that his powerplay and penalty kill usage have shifted in the opposite direction and the change started right around the time that Muller took over. The strange thing is that Brent has actually been very efficient on the powerplay. Remember, he is second among regular forwards in creating powerplay chances. This isn't what you'd expect from a defensive center who struggles to drive possession but for whatever reason, Brent is getting the job done on the powerplay.
What exactly is Brent doing to be so operative on the powerplay? The initial thought is that he would be a good body to create traffic in front of the net. While he can play that role, he's actually been working the point on most nights. That might come across as a surprise to some, but he's actually done a fine job in that position. Brent playing the point has helped the Canes with their zone entries on with the man advantage and he's been doing the little things that help make the Canes powerplay better.
After the jump, we'll jump into the film room and look at an example of how Brent's been helping the powerplay.
The Canes are in the final stage of a powerplay in the second period of Monday's game against the Montreal Canadiens. Right here, you will see Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin make a clearing attempt along the boards after Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner couldn't control the puck behind the net.
Emelin's clearing attempt is kept in by Tim Brent, this post's feature player, and he is able to keep the powerplay alive for at least a few minutes. Brent elects to make a simple play and get the puck over to the guy working the other point, Jaro Spacek.
Spacek has the puck here and he can either do two things; shoot the puck or make an attempt to get the puck deep.
Spacek makes a smart play by going for the pass instead of the shot and he sends the puck into the right corner of the rink where there are no Montreal players and the closest guy to the puck is Carolina forward Jeff Skinner.
Skinner is in a good position here as he is able to make a short pass over to Jussi Jokinen along the boards. The Montreal defender is far enough away from him that the play is safe and Carolina's been given more than enough room to work with here.
Jokinen makes a pass back to the point to Tim Brent and the latter makes a simple but effective play here. He draws the Montreal player (Rene Bourque) to him and then makes a quick pass back over to Jokinen before Bourque can get close to the puck. Notice how much space Jokinen has now that Brent drew Bourque to the point.
Brent makes the pass to Jokinen and it gets there with no harm done. Bourque is now taken out of the play and Carolina has Montreal outnumbered at an even greater advantage here. Carolina essentially has a 4-on-3 advantage down low with Spacek pinching and Bourque being too far away to do anything about it. Jokinen has all the time and space he needs to create a play.
Here's where you see the numbers advantage that Carolina has. You see that Jokinen has the puck, Spacek is pinching at the bottom of the picture and both LaRose and Skinner (not pictured) are in standing in front of the net while Montreal only has three players covering that area. Bourque is desperately trying to get back into the play to help out.
All four Montreal players picture have their eyes on Skinner, who has the puck, but they are completely ignoring Spacek pinching in. Emelin has been taken out of the play by LaRose, Plekanec is out of position and Campoli is trying to get to Skinner. All while Spacek is walking in unguarded. Guess what happens next...
Spacek scores a lay-up and the Canes get a 2-0 lead. To quote John Forslund, "That's hockey baby."
Brent didn't get an assist on this marker but he did two very important things on the play. First, he kept in Emelin's clearing attempt and then made a nice, simple pass to Jokinen while drawing Bourque to the point. He gave the Canes a slight 4-on-3 advantage down low for a few seconds and the rest of the team took full advantage of it. This also allowed Spacek to slip in untouched because the Habs were so focused on where the puck was. Brent's plays weren't anything remarkable but he did little things to help improve the powerplay. His play at even strength needs a lot of work but when it comes to special teams, Brent has done a good job.