The Blackhawks got their necessary rebound victory on Friday night. They didn’t need a lot of goals, but the two they did get came from their power play.
Wait: the power play? The same Blackhawks’ power play that has been much maligned these past few years despite the firepower this team possesses? Yes, after being a bane the last few seasons, the power play has truly become an advantage for the Blackhawks again.
The Blackhawks scored both of their goals on the power play on Friday, and entering Saturday’s games the Blackhawks’ advantage is ranked fifth in the NHL (22.2 percent). For a team that’s struggled more than expected in 5-on-5 scoring, the power play’s resurgence has been pivotal.
“We have a lot of different looks, different options,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The threat for a point shot from the middle opens a lot of things up, then you have play-making down around the net. But net-front presence on both power plays, shot mentality first and improvising off that, it helps when you’re thinking shot first instead of the perfect play.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
So why is the power play so much more effective this season? It doesn’t hurt that Patrick Kane has been on the points roll he has. Ten of Kane’s 19 goals this season have come on the power play; he has five assists on the advantage, too.
Kane’s fellow second liners have also enhanced the Blackhawks’ power play, be it with their points (Artemi Panarin has six assists on it and Artem Anisimov has two goals and an assist) or just their presence on it. Anisimov gives the Blackhawks another player who’s willing to be that net-front presence. Before that, the only steady one was Andrew Shaw.
Defensemen have also been active on it, their shots either getting through or becoming rebound opportunities for teammates in front. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith have combined for 14 power-play points.
“We have a lot of guys who can play the power play and move it around, a lot of different looks going for us right now, some unpredictability,” Keith said. “And obviously Kaner’s having an unbelievable season and his line mates have helped. Chemistry out there in general helps.”
So far this season, the power play has been what the Blackhawks figured it should have been allalong. It’s going to have its slumps. Even now the power play has its extreme moments, producing a goal on one opportunity and not even registering a shot on the next go-around. But overall, it’s definitely been a true advantage this season.
“I think there’s definitely a focus on it this year. We want to make sure we’re doing the right things on the power play to create chances, score goals and not lose momentum,” Kane said. “That’s probably the biggest thing that we’ve seen in the past: sometimes on our power play we can lose momentum and give that team an extra edge. So I think we’re doing a good job of not only keeping momentum but cashing in on chances.”