MOVED: Special Teams: Part 2 – Penalty Kill

Please Note: This article has been moved to the PPM Hockey Guides section.

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Special Teams: Part 2 – Penalty Kill

In this article, the 2nd in a series on Special Teams, I am going to talk about your Penalty Kill unit(s).

PPM Penalty KillI’ve you’ve ever played hockey yourself, you would know that there is nothing quite as important as killing off your oppositions powerplay. There is also nothing quite as rewarding as knowing that for 2 minutes (or more) you successfully managed to keep them from scoring, even though they had the man advantage.

Taking penalties and the resulting PK is a natural part of hockey. It’s pretty much impossible to play game in game out and not take penalties. So, you need to make sure your PK unit(s) are good enough for the job.

The Penalty Kill Unit Setup:

In PPM you only have to deal with the 4-man PK Unit. On this lineup, you have a Center, a Wing, and 2 defensemen. While the PK screen specifically mentions a Right Wing (RW), it should be noted that you can play either wing position here without penalty. You can also play Defensive players in Forward roles on your PK unit, again, without penalty (according to what we’ve been told on the PK forums).

Non Specific Key Attributes:

During my discussions with many other managers, and from my own personal experience there are 3 vital attributes that make up a good Penalty Killer. While not all the players on the unit need to have these, doing so can greatly increase the quality and success of your PK line.

1) Technique. This is possibly one of the most important attributes of the game actually, and there is no such thing as “too much”. High technique players have more control and better skill, 2 things vital on a PK line.

2) Defense. There has been a growing trend in recent seasons where managers have started to train forward in defense. One manager recently told me he trains his forwards defense to between 10% and 20% of his Offensive attribute. This is optional of course, and many players do have defense when they come out of the Sports Academy.

3) Passing. Like technique, there is no such thing as “too much”. High passing attributes doesn’t mean they will pass more than shoot, it simply means they are better at it. A top player should be skilled in both shooting and passing, and when you couple that with a high technique attribute, you have a highly skilled all-round player.

4) Aggression. You need to ensure that whoever you put on your PK lines has a low aggression, or if not low, at least has a technique attribute HIGHER than his aggression. This is an issue debated by many managers, however I believe no player (and i mean NO player) should have aggression higher than technique! Doing so just encourages penalties.

Position Specific – Center:

I personally think of my 2 forward positions as being separate. Your center MUST be good in all aspects of the game, and that means having great passing and tecnhique, a little defense and low aggression. Quite often, your top line center will fit the bill for this role, but don’t be afraid to look at your other centers also.

Position Specific – Wing / Defense:

While your center needs specific play-making skills to win face-offs, your wings and defense are there to simply clear the puck and/or stop goals being scored by the opposition. They don’t “need” to be able to shoot or have killer offensive skills at all, in fact, defense is far more important on this particular special team. Many managers play 3 defensemen and 1 center on their PK units for this very reason. Naturally, you need to ensure all the guys on this line have technique higher than or equal to their aggression attribute. In fact, technique and passing are vital attributes for players in these positions.

Experience:

A simple word of advice… unless you are aware of the risks, NEVER play a low experience rookie on a PK unit. Experience is used by the game engine to add strength to a players skills (according to sources) so an experienced player will always be far better than an inexperienced one. This applies to your powerplay lines also.

Practice & Tracking:

As with your powerplay lines, it can be helpful to track the teams you play and your PK stats. This can help determine which of your PK lines is most effective and which ones need work. Experiment if you have issues and be willing to take a few chances on different players. Just because someone has high defense doesn’t necessarily make them the best player to use on the PK.

Good luck with your upcoming games, I look forward to any comments you may have.s

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MOVED: Special Teams: Part 1 – Power Play

Please Note: This article has been moved to the PPM Hockey Guides section.

You can jump directly to it HERE

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Special Teams: Part 1 – Power Play

Being successful at Powerplay Manager hockey is more than just winning games. If you look at all the strongest, most successful teams on PPM they are solid in all areas of the game, most importantly their special teams; powerplay and penalty kill. The success of your hockey teams special teams can have a deciding impact on the outcome of your games. Your Powerplay has the opportunity to capitalize on the man advantage and your Penalty Kill is responsible for protecting your net when you’re a man down. These 2 situations are often key to your teams overall success.

Powerplay Manager Special TeamsOver the course of the next few days I will be posting a series of articles about special teams, explaining a few helpful tips that you may, or may not have thought of. I encourage you to leave comments (down the page) if you have any thoughts or suggestions.

Part 1: Power Play

A good powerplay should be one that is consistent. It doesn’t have to score on every opportunity (would be nice though, wouldn’t it?), it just has to score consistently every few chances. I am of the opinion that a good powerplay should score between 30% and 40% of the time, although anything over 20% is pretty resonable in the stronger leagues throughout PPM, especially against tougher teams.

So the big question is, what makes a good Powerplay?

Your powerplay unit consists of 5 players, who play the Wings, Center and Defense positions. This doesn’t mean you need to play those particular players in those particular positions though. Much like real hockey teams around the world, some managers opt to play big shot forwards on the point position (defense position on the PP) to help increase the chance of goals from the Blue Line. In my experience a solid powerplay needs the following:

1) High Passing. This is essential for all players, especially your center. You need all of your guys to be able to cycle the puck during play, and passing is a key part of this.
2) High Technique. Similar to passing, your players technique will improve their passing, shooting and stick handling skill.
3) Big Shot / Offense. You want all your players to have good shooting skills, at least 50% of your players primary attribute.

Saying that, putting high offense, high shooting, high passing players is not enough.

Your Blue Liners:

You have 2 defense positions on your Powerplay. After speaking to a lot of successful managers, most of them concur that 2 defensive guys need to 100% compliment each other. In other words, if you only have 1 truly big shot defenseman, make sure the other guy on the blueline has very high passing. You’ve seen NHL games, most good NHL powerplays have 2 defenseman who compliment each other with passing & shooting. You need to make sure you big shooter has someone up there with him who can make the big pass right on his stick. If your big shot defenseman is also your big passer, think of putting a sniper / forward up there with him. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Your Forwards:

“He Shoots… He scores!” Great quote, but how do you make it happen? Your defenseman play a vital role in the powerplay, but your forwards can be the ones who start the sequense. It all starts with your center guy, who MUST be a top playmaker. By this I mean he needs to have very high technique and very high passing. His shooting attribute can be minimal, as your centers main role here is going to be setting up the rest of the guys. As for your wingers, think of them as primary scorers and secondary passers. By that i mean they will think shoot first, but MUST be able to make the passes in order to cycle the play. Most teams wingers have low(er) passing, so don’t worry if your passing isn’t high for these guys, but make sure they do have at least “some” passing. A solid powerplay winger needs to have high technique, high shooting, high offense, medium passing and medium aggression. The latter is to win puck battles and help screen the goalie.

Track Powerplays:

If you are really keen to improve your powerplay, you need to make sure you know how it currently performs. After each game write down how many PP opportunities you had, and how many goals. Also record those against you, as PK stats are just as important, as i’ll discuss tomorrow. Also take note of the team you played against and whether they are stronger, weaker or equal to you. You may play 10 games against rookie teams and have 60% PP and then 10 games against equal teams and only have 15% PP. The latter is actually the more accurate figure, so by tracking the strength of your opponent you can get a better idea. You don’t need to track full star/puck rating, just write down in your own words how good they are. I personally rank my opponents like this: -2 (much worse) -1 (worse) 0 (equal) 1 (stronger) 2 (much stronger). It’s not accurate, but gives me an idea for my own record keeping. I have also started collecting star/puck ratings of my opponents.

Test, Test More & Test Again:

As with everything, you might need to make changes every few games to “tweak” your powerplay. Don’t be afraid to change players and try new things.

That’s it… now go out there, draw a penalty and get your powerplay in action!

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Wiring The Juniper

I’ve been staring at the small Juniper for a few days and finally decided what i’m going to do with it. As the tree has a natural kink in the trunk, i’ve decided to let the tree grow with that shape and will give it an informal upright style.

Today, my task was to wire the plant and give it the overall shape I desire.

As balance is a vital part of my belief system, and central to a lot of Bonsai themes, I decided to give the initial curve in the trunk a little more twist and then re-shaped the top part of the tree back towards the top and slightly to the front. The result is a fairly natural looking curve with the top of the tree close to being aligned with the trunk.

Before and after photos:

Before Wiring After wiring

I am quite pleased with the result, especially considering this is my first time wiring a tree.

Wiring:

Double WiredI had gone out and picked up 2.5mm aluminium wire but found it too heavy for my needs for this tree, so ended up opting for the 1mm wire that I got the other day. 1 strand of wire was not quite strong enough to create the desired bend, so I used 2 of them for the lower part of the tree.

It took a few attempts to get it wired and I was worried that I might damage the tree, but it turns out this little thing is pretty damn hardy and it took a lot of punishment before I finally got the hang of what I was doing.

The picture to the right shows what I did.

Next Step:

The next step in the process is to wire the smaller branches, and then re-pot the plant. I will be wiring the smaller branches tonight and will update with new photos tomorrow.

After that, comes re-potting.

I picked up a great small pot the other day, and have all the materials ready to go, so that is the task for tomorrow.

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My New Project: I’m Learning Bonsai

My wife and I were at Bunnings (garden centre) the other day and we came across this great little Bonsai section. My dad has been growing Bonsai trees since I was knee high to a grasshopper, so it has always fascinated and interested me. I had never really felt the urge to grow my own however, mainly because I have serious patience issues and Bonsai is a life-time hobby that involves a lot of patience. As i’ve grown older though, i’ve started to appreciate the slower things in life, so while standing there in Bunnings, my wfe looks at me and suggests I buy one.

So I did.

Juniperus Squamata Prostrata

Juniperus Squamata Prostrata

This little tree to the right is a Juniperus Squamata Prostrata, or as it’s often called, a Blue Juniper, named for it’s green to blue/grey foliage. It doesn’t look like much right now, but i’m hoping I can transform it into something much more impressive. Saying that, I have just one small issue…

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Well, that’s not entirely true, I did afterall grow up with a father who grew Bonsai trees, some of them even Junipers.

The Tree:

This particular tree currently stands about 6 inches tall and has a curved trunk that starts straight, leans to the right and then turns to the left. The tip of the tree tilts back towards the top again.

The photo to the right was taken the day I got the tree (last weekend) and has had no modifications.

Styling:

I am seriously thinking of either going with semi-cascade or informal upright for the style of tree. Semi-cascade would look awesome, but would involved quite a bit wiring to make it work. The informal upright (ie. tilted slightly) would be easier, but the shape needs serious growth. The other option is the slanted style, which as you can see, the tree already partially has.

Information Overload:

If you’ve ever done Bonsai and stared out with a mentor you will probably understand that finding information about Bonsai is pretty much an information overload. There is so much content, so many lessons and so many different ways to do it, that knowing what is best is simply impossible. That’s where I am right now, although I am getting a much better grasp of everything. Having a father who does Bonsai is a great help, and I will get him on Skype from time to time to help me through the steep learning curve.

I will post regular updates on how the tree is coming on.

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