Blackhawks

Blackhawks power play continues to thrive on the road

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Blackhawks power play continues to thrive on the road

By Michael Kelly

Special contributor for CSNChicago.com

DENVER – The Chicago Blackhawks have had struggles scoring 5-on-5 this season but their power play has been one of the best in the league.

When they hit the road, they’re even better with the man advantage.

That trend continued Thursday with two big power-play goals against Colorado, including one from Jonathan Toews at 3:29 of overtime to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win.

“The power play’s been big for us lately,” Toews said. “Nice to see that continue because it’s obviously making a difference in some of these tight games, especially against division teams like Colorado. Nice to see the power play have a little success again tonight.”

Chicago came into Thursday fourth overall in the NHL with a 23.3 power-play percentage after finishing 19th last season at 17.6 percent. They’re getting production from both power-play units, which has contributed to the overall success.

“I think the balance of the two units have been the most consistent part about it, game in and game out,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Both lines can start, both lines are capable of offense. You don’t have to basically ride one unit most of the time.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The power play struggled a little for six games, going 2-for-13, but broke out against Arizona on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks were 3-for-4 with the man advantage, the first time this season they had three power-play goals.

That continued a run of success on the road. Chicago leads the NHL in road power-play percentage at 27.4 and has at least one power-play goal in 13 of their 19 road games.

Their first opportunity against Colorado on Thursday generated more chances for the Avalanche. Goalie Scott Darling misplayed a puck between the circles and left the net open but a bouncing pass by Carl Soderberg bailed him out. Later, Colorado center John Mitchell hit the crossbar.

The Blackhawks scored on their second chance when Patrick Kane easily beat Semyon Varlamov off a crossing pass from Artemi Panarin 4:20 into the second period.

[MORE: Toews, Blackhawks end 2015 on a high note in win over Avalanche]

“Our No. 1 unit’s really been firing and the rest, when we get the opportunity, are trying to make something happen,” Toews said. “There’s not as much pressure on the second unit.”

Both units have shown they can score, and it has helped Chicago keep pace in the Central Division.

“Hopefully the power play can always be there,” Quenneville said. “That’s key, especially in today’s game.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.