Blackhawks

Blackhawks experiment with power play that ranks dead last in NHL

Blackhawks experiment with power play that ranks dead last in NHL

The power play has been a struggle all season long for the Blackhawks, who slipped to dead last in the NHL with a 14.0 percent success rate after going 0-for-14 with the man advantage on their five-game road trip.

It's not the primary reason the Blackhawks are outside of the playoff picture but it's certainly one of the main reasons they picked up only two out of a possible 10 points in Western Canada. Their two best power play performances were in Edmonton and Vancouver, where they generated a combined 16 scoring chances and six high-danger chances on their eight opportunities.

Back at practice in Chicago on Tuesday, the Blackhawks experimented with some different looks. 

Patrick Kane, Dominik Kubalik, Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Erik Gustafsson made up the first unit in a 1-3-1 setup, which has been the structure all season. The second unit, however, was in a box-and-one-type setup with Adam Boqvist and Duncan Keith running the point, Kirby Dach in front of the net, and Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome at the faceoff circles.

"It's a little bit different," DeBrincat said. "We're just playing to our strengths. For us, we're trying to move it along the outside and converge the net. We have two D on [our unit], so for them, it's controlling the blue line and getting pucks on net. The other one is a little bit more of a traditional look, but I think both could be deadly and hopefully that happens."

The Blackhawks spent a majority of practice working on the power play. And rightfully so. Production at 5-on-5 hasn't been an issue; They rank thirteenth with 122 goals. But on the power play, they have scored only 25 times after tucking in 48 last season.

"Just trying to get the reps," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Nothing really new, though. It's just more like getting confidence, and having, for the players, a chance to go through some options and have conversations under pressure."

With the penalty kill performing at a top-10 level this season, a hot power play could be the difference between making a final playoff push and not for the Blackhawks.

"The power play has been something that hasn't been clicking this year," Kane said. "That's something we're trying to improve on and get better at. ... I think it's been pretty good lately. Right now it's just a matter of getting a bounce here or there, and getting some confidence off that."

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2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

Despite opening the Western Conference Final on the road, the Blackhawks overcame an early deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game 1 at HP Pavillon. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. An epic goaltending battle

The Blackhawks and Sharks ranked third and fourth, respectively, in goals per game going into the playoffs, so it wasn't a surprise to see two of the NHL's best offensive teams reach the Final Four.

The offensive firepower was on full display in Game 1, with the two teams combining for 85 shots on goal, 68 scoring chances and 22 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. But it was the goaltending that stole the show.

Antti Niemi made a career-high 44 saves on 45 shots for a save percentage of .978. He also stopped all 13 high-danger chances. His counterpart Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 38 of 40 shots, including all nine high-danger chances, for a save percentage of .950. 

2. Escaping the special teams nightmare

The Blackhawks made Game 1 very difficult on themselves in the special teams department. They committed five minor penalties compared to the Sharks' zero, which is as lopsided a ratio as you'll ever see in the playoffs.

The Sharks capitalized on one of those five chances but credit the Blackhawks for hanging in on the other four. They played a full 60 minutes without a single man advantage and made sure it wasn't the reason they lost the game.

3. The legend of Dustin Byfuglien grows

You are going to see a lot of Byfuglien in this series, and he didn't waste any time.

In a 1-1 tie, a wide open Big Buff pounded his stick on the ice, received a pass from Patrick Kane in the high slot and buried a slap shot past Nabokov with 6:45 left in regulation and it turned out to be the game winner.

Byfuglien scored a goal in all four games and was credited with the game winner in three of them. Game 1 was just the start.

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Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

The Blackhawks announced on Thursday that they have re-signed pending restricted free agent forward Matthew Highmore and goaltender Kevin Lankinen, and agreed to terms with forward prospects Evan Barratt and Andrei Altybarmakyan on entry-level contracts.

Highmore's deal runs for two years through the 2021-22 season and carries a $725,000 average annual value (AAV). Lankinen's deal is also for two years and runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and carries a $800,000 AAV.

Barratt's deal runs for three years through the 2022-23 season and carries an $870,000 AAV, while Altybarmakyan's is a two-year deal that runs through the 2021-22 campaign and carries a $817,500 AAV.

Highmore has six points (two goals, four assists) in 36 games with the Blackhawks this season and registered 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 21 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Lankinen went 8-10-2 with a 3.03 goals against average and .909 save percentage for Rockford before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on March 2.

Barratt, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round (No. 90 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is the most notable signing. He registered a team-high 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 34 games during his junior season at Penn State, and was also a Hobey Baker nominee in 2019 after setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43) as a sophomore.

Altybarmakyan was also taken in the third round (No. 70 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He registered career highs in goals (six), assists (11) and points (17) in 49 games this season for HK Sochi of the Kontinental Hockey League, and appeared in three games for HK Tambov of the VHL.

With the re-signing of Highmore and Lankinen, the Blackhawks now have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome.

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