Blackhawks

Blackhawks aren't concerned with power outage

576508.png

Blackhawks aren't concerned with power outage

Marian Hossa said frustration isnt there right now.

Hossa has been out there on that Blackhawks power play, which is mired in a definite early-season slump. Hes taken his shots and watched his teammates do the same. But no matter the game, the opposing goaltender or the number of chances, the Blackhawks just cant connect on a power-play goal. Zip, zilch, nothing. And on Monday night against Nashville it was 0-for-7 nothing.

But Hossa isnt worried.

Were not really frustrated right now because we do a lot of good things. Were moving, he said. Just about the time when the first puck goes in, then itll come in bunches.

Its an optimistic attitude for a power play that hasnt had many positives. Yes, the opportunities have been there, and in the last two games so have the more choice shots. It didnt help on Monday that Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne was not in a very giving mood on the Blackhawks power plays. But the power play remains anemic nonetheless, as the Blackhawks have capitalized just four times on 45 advantages this season.

The Blackhawks last power-play goal came Oct. 22 against the Colorado Avalanche; theyve gone 0 for 18 in their last four games. Theyre converting just 8.9 percent of the time, which puts them 29th in the league only St. Louis power play is more futile (8.3 percent). Contrast that with their penalty kill, which has scored just one less goal (three) than their power play.

Theres your random stat for the day.

And as much as power-play chances and shots have improved, coach Joel Quenneville said those positives only go so far.

With the number of chances weve had, somethings got to give, he said. Were generating but we need production. Thats what we measure and thats what were looking to attain.

Quenneville loves to switch forward lines and defensive pairings when things arent going right, and hes done the same with the power play. The new combinations have yielded better scoring chances. But the Blackhawks could still shoot more: they had nine shots on seven power plays on Monday, including just two on a 5 on 3 that lasted one minute, 35 seconds.

When the Blackhawks had early shootout issues several players said this group was too talented for that to last. They were right. The mini-drought didnt last and the same is likely for the power play.

The Blackhawks have weathered power-play woes with good work elsewhere: strong goaltending and their ability to pile up goals on even strength among them. They also benefit from a stellar penalty kill, which is third in the NHL (91.7 percent). They probably win some games more handily if the power plays working, but theyre a strong 7-2-2 nonetheless.

Hockeys a game of ups and downs. The power play is decidedly down right now but the Blackhawks say its only a matter of time before it starts producing.

Were doing everything except putting it in the net, Patrick Kane said. Everything else is looking pretty good as far as movement. Breakouts were good tonight and there was good movement on the 5 on 3 and 5 on 4. We just have to score goals.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

2-23_berube_schmaltz_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."