Blackhawks

Blackhawks effective power play producing again

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Blackhawks effective power play producing again

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.

[MORE: Kane's point streak continues in win over Jets]

“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.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.