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Studying Hockey Systems for Goaltending: 5-on-3 PP

Studying Hockey Systems for Goaltending: 5-on-3 PP

Today we continue the series of articles from coach Hiroki Wakabayashi. Too often young goaltenders think their world begins and ends in the blue paint, learning all the intricate details of our position while assuming the rest of the team game holds little value to them. In this series we focus on the team game and how the systems employed by opposing teams can have an effect on how a goaltender reads, prepares for and ultimately handles scoring threats.


Playing against 5 on 3 power play is the most challenging situation for goalies. The opponents have great puck control, many passing options and shooting lanes from their best offensive players. This is exactly the situation that “the goalie has to be the best penalty killing player.”

Basic formations of 5 on 3 don’t have as many variations as 5 on 4 power play. Most teams employ basic 2-1-2 formation as known as “Dice” or “Box Plus One” and it might rotate into an Umbrella formation.

5 on 3 “Dice” Power Play

The “Dice” formation usually has two off-wing point players just above top of the circles, two off-wing players on the bottom of the circles and one player in front of the net. The basic idea is to move the puck around the slot quickly to shake the penalty killing triangle and eventually take a shot from one of the points or the backdoor.

  1. Point Shot
    Below, the power play unit moved the puck from backdoor, up to point then weak side point for a big one timer. The goalie couldn’t catch up with the tempo of the passes as he had to look for the puck over the screen. He took two shuffles to move across the crease but it was way too late to get ready to react to the shot.
  2. Up and down
    As most teams have the biggest shooter on one of the points and the shot is eventually coming from “the shooter”. Goalies could play a little deeper inside of the crease when the puck is moving around the slot and challenge a bit when the puck gets to “the shooter” to have better coverage of the net. However, “the shooter” might pass the puck quickly down to one of the players on the bottom of the circles if they see the goalie is challenging out too much or going down too soon on the shot. Here are the examples.
  3. Switch
    This has become popular instead of keeping the static dice formation. It usually starts when one of the bottom circle players keeping the puck. Strong side point moves in the middle of the slot in order to shrink the PK triangle. Weak side point, usually off-wing shooter slides into middle slot, blasts one-timer from the bottom circle player through the traffic.
  4. Pass Across
    Pass across between the bottom circle players is more difficult to execute but it’s deadly when it happens because it’s a clean shot form the backdoor. Here the goalie couldn’t move across and seal the post against very quick pass.Here the goalie was a bit away from the post, locked into the VH position too soon and couldn’t react and slide across to the pass across.
  5. Middle Slot
    As the defender in front of the net trying to cut the backdoor pass, middle slot would be available eventually. Here, the goalie was able to come out for the shot from the middle but the shot found his toe and created a good rebound.

5 on 3 “Umbrella” Power Play
Some teams prefer to rotate “Dice” into an “Umbrella” formation in order to create different shooting/passing lanes. Below the goalie went down to the paddle down position and lost the mobility against the last pass in front of him.

In the next article, we will discuss the keys to playing against 5 on 3 power play situations.

About The Author

Hiroki Wakabayashi

Hiroki Wakabayashi is a USA level 5 certified hockey coach from Japan. Hiroki has coached goalies and teams in Japan, Canada, USA and five other countries in last twenty years. His work varies from professional teams, national teams (Hong Kong), Junior and NHL drafted goalies to youth hockey level. Heroki is currently working with Arizona Jr. Coyotes.