Blackhawks

Power play will make or break playoff chances for Blackhawks

Power play will make or break playoff chances for Blackhawks

If you wrote a list of things the Blackhawks needed to address going into the 2019-20 season, the power play would've been at the very bottom.

From Christmas and on last season, the Blackhawks had the second-best power play with a 26.8 percent success rate. At one point over that stretch they were converting at a ridiculous 40 percent clip.

It was the penalty kill that weighed down the Blackhawks' special teams by finishing dead last. This season, it's been the exact opposite.

After going 0-for-3 in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Blackhawks slipped to 28th in power play percentage at 15.0. But failing to convert on those three opportunities wasn't the worst part.

The Blackhawks were outshot (3-2), out-chanced (4-2) and outscored (1-0) by the shorthanded Jets in 5:01 of power-play time and it changed the complexion of the game. Winnipeg's shorthanded goal in the second period was its first of five unanswered after the Blackhawks scored the first two in period one.

"The power play was a huge momentum-killer for us," head coach Jeremy Colliton said after the loss. "Not only did they score, but we didn’t react well to that adversity and it seemed to affect the rest of the game."

The Blackhawks have seemingly tried everything to fix their power play but nothing has clicked.

They started out the season by loading up the first unit with the same five-man group — Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome, Jonathan Toews and Erik Gustafsson — that dominated last season but they struggled to recapture that magic.

They separated Kane and Toews to balance out both units and that didn’t work either.

They replaced Gustafsson as the quarterback on the first unit for Adam Boqvist, incorporated more young guys into the mix, including Kirby Dach, and even tried practicing different looks with Dach and DeBrincat in the bumper role and still haven't found a formula that's stuck.

The concerning part is that the power play hasn't caught fire at any point in the season, so there isn’t anything to hang on to. The confidence with the man advantage is at a season-low and it’s noticeable. 

So what's the issue? How can the Blackhawks go from the top of the league to the bottom in a year?

To help identify the problem, let's take a look at where the Blackhawks rank this season in several key underlying power-play categories on a per-two-minute basis, according to Sportlogiq:

— Zone entry success rate: 28th (60.0)
— Percentage of shots on net: 28th (48.1)
— Slot shots: 24th (0.9)
— Slot pass completions: 18th (1.37)
— Offensive zone possession time: 14th (0:39)

This is where they ranked last season from Dec. 25 and on:

— Zone entry success rate: 18th (63.7)
— Percentage of shots on net: 12th (54.0)
— Slot shots: 7th (1.09)
— Slot pass completions: 3rd (1.77)
— Offensive zone possession time: 1st (0:43)

Across the board, the Blackhawks had the puck more, created more scoring chances from high-danger areas and put more shots on net from the slot last season than this season. It's why the Blackhawks have put so much emphasis on who's stationed in the bumper role (high slot area).

The Blackhawks don't need a structural overhaul. It essentially comes down to puck movement and opening up lanes, which keeps the penalty killers honest.

Far too often we've seen the Blackhawks make one too many passes instead of putting the puck on net and that's what happens when things aren't going your way. You try looking for the perfect play but most times, simple is better. It doesn't always have to be pretty.

The Blackhawks have been able to overcome a struggling power play all season long because their penalty kill has been lights out. But with their backs against the wall, it's difficult to see the Blackhawks getting inside the playoff picture without solving their power play woes.

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2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 4 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 4 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.

After taking a 3-0 series lead, the Blackhawks had an opportunity to clinch a berth to the Stanley Cup Final at home in Game 4. And that's exactly what they did, beating the San Jose Sharks 4-2 to complete the sweep in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Dustin Byfuglien for the win

Byfuglien was really good in the Vancouver series. He was great against San Jose.

To cap off the Western Conference Final, Byfuglien scored the go-ahead goal with 5:55 left in regulation to put the Blackhawks in front 3-2. It was his fifth straight game with a goal, and third game-winner (all against San Jose).

Big Buff put a stamp on his work in Game 4 and it was a treat to watch.

2. A defensive clinic

The Blackhawks were a high-powered offense in 2010, but Game 4 was all about the defense.

The Blackhawks allowed a postseason-low 18 shots on goal and four high-danger chances in 60 minutes, according to Natural Stat Trick. Antti Niemi faced only three shots in the third period. It was a defensive masterpiece in an elimination game.

3. The tightest series of them all

The Blackhawks were better than the Nashville Predators in the first round. They were better than the Vancouver Canucks in the second round. And while they may have swept the Sharks, this was as even a series as you could find in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

In fact, the Sharks led in shot attempts (269-247), shots on goal (136-127), scoring chances (116-94) and high-danger chances (43-25), according to Natural Stat Trick. All four games could've gone either way, but the Blackhawks delivered in the clutchest ways, particularly on special teams, and it's why they didn't lose.

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Pat Stapleton, former Blackhawks captain, dies at 79 due to complications from a stroke

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AP

Pat Stapleton, former Blackhawks captain, dies at 79 due to complications from a stroke

Pat Stapleton, who served as the Blackhawks' captain during the 1969-70 season, died Wednesday night due to complications from a stroke. He was 79.

"The Chicago Blackhawks organization would like to express their deepest sympathy to the family, friends and former teammates of Pat Stapleton who passed away last night at the age of 79 due to complications from a stroke," the Blackhawks said Thursday in a statement. "As a former team captain and valued member of the Blackhawks Alumni Association, Stapleton’s contributions to the organization will forever be remembered by the entire Blackhawks community.”

Stapleton spent eight of his 10 NHL seasons in Chicago, where he racked up 327 points (41 goals, 286 assists) in 545 regular-season games and 49 points (10 goals, 39 assists) in 65 postseason contests from 1965-73. His best season came in 1968-69 when he became the second defenseman in league history to record 50 assists in a single season.

Stapleton was a three-time second-team NHL All-Star and finished inside the Top 4 in Norris Trophy voting three times as a member of the Blackhawks. His son, Mike, also played five seasons in Chicago from 1986-92.

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