Blackhawks

Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

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Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

Stop us if youve heard us say this before: the power play was a big issue this season for the Blackhawks. And on Wednesday, as the team headed for another long summer, the possible problems were bandied about.

It was about the coaches and what they couldve done to fix it.

It was about the players, and how they needed to execute it.

But for the players, it was about the big guy in front of the net or, more to the point, the big guy who wasnt in front of the net.

As the Blackhawks ponder a lot of off-season questions, one has to be about fixing the power play. And the players may be onto something; the days of having that big body in front of the net have dissipated for the Blackhawks. Theyre fine with perimeter stars, not so bad on the point. But down in front? A little help might be needed.

Obviously, any good power play has a guy in front of the net all the time, Duncan Keith said. You look at Detroit and their power play and (Tomas) Holmstroms been there for the last 10 years, sitting in front of the net.

Those Red Wings are also out of the playoffs in the first round, but their power play probably wasnt the reason why; it was ranked seventh this regular season. The Blackhawks used to have those guys, with Tomas Kopecky and Troy Brouwer being the latest who were lost to free agencytraded before this season began.

We have a lot of identity on that PP, if you look at the guys on there that put up points. But Kaners talked about having that front-net presence being huge for us, Dave Bolland said. Its big to have that goalie screen and have a big body in front. Goalies hate it. Thats probably one of the main things.

Is that the only issue with the power play? Probably not. The Blackhawks still seemed to get too caught up in setting up the power play instead of going on the attack immediately. There was a good deal of waiting and passing, and faceoffs were also an issue at times.

Its probably a combination of several things, Keith said. I think for one thing, our confidence was probably a factor. Wed get going, get on a bad start and it almost got in our heads. For whatever reason, I dont know why. Theres no reason for it with the talent we have. I know I could be better at it, help it out. Thats an area I think Ive done well on in the past but its an area I think I can help out in personally.

Coach Joel Quenneville said, Ill absorb responsibility for ineffectiveness for the most part. But players do as well. Theyre the ones who execute it and they get the quality time. Sharing that going forward has to be important.

But a big guy in front certainly would help create opposite goaltender frustration, create a screen, create a quick chance at firing back rebounds. Maybe it comes from within; Bryan Bickell could be a good option there, or perhaps Viktor Stalberg. He said hed do whatever it takes to get on the power play. Or maybe the Blackhawks need to get that in free agency.

One way or another, the Blackhawks need to find answers on the power play. It was big when they won in past postseasons, and theyll need it to win in future ones.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”