Blackhawks’ power play is sizzling again


Blackhawks’ power play is sizzling again

NEW YORK – Once upon a time in the land of the Blackhawks, the power play was a bit of a running joke.

Despite the massive talent on that power play, the Blackhawks struggled on it. Granted, in the grand scheme of things, it rarely cost them; their 5-on-5 scoring and penalty kill were so good, they could get past the lack of power play scoring. Still, it was stupefying that it scored so infrequently.

Well, the power play hasn’t had a problem scoring lately. In fact, that formerly maligned power play is the main reason the Blackhawks are winning again.

The Blackhawks scored three power-play goals on Wednesday night, lifting them from a 3-2 deficit to a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers. The power play’s been clicking plenty lately; the Blackhawks went 4-for-7 on it in their lopsided victory over Toronto on Monday and it was 1-for-2 in an overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. So that’s eight power-play goals in three games for the Blackhawks.

[MORE HAWKS: President Barack Obama honors Blackhawks for Stanley Cup victory]

So what the heck is working?

“I don’t know. I guess whoever goes out there has been contributing,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’re getting shots, we’re getting pucks back. Like I said [Wednesday] morning, when you get those pucks back from your first chances, it always gives you confidence that you can go back and make plays and try to make things happen, knowing that everyone’s in position, everyone’s moving and things are clicking a little bit.”

You could argue some of the Blackhawks’ offseason changes have helped that power play, too. Artemi Panarin, who had two power-play goals against the Rangers, has been a great offensive contributor on 5-on-5 and on the advantage. Artem Anisimov has also been good, especially as a net-front presence. And as Toews said, confidence in any aspect of a game usually leads to more production in it.

“The power play [Wednesday] was just like the Toronto game, where it was instrumental us winning the game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was definitely the big factor.”

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Sure, you could argue that the Blackhawks haven’t faced the best penalty kills these past two games. The Maple Leafs are ranked 22nd in the NHL on the penalty kill while the Rangers are 28th. But in recent seasons, facing a bad penalty kill didn’t necessarily mean the Blackhawks’ power play was successful.

The Blackhawks’ power play used to be a bit of a joke. There were times when the Blackhawks got more momentum shorthanded than with the man advantage. This season, especially lately, that has changed. The Blackhawks’ power play is currently the second-best in the NHL. It’s been critical in a lot of games, definitely getting them victories in their last two. Confidence is everything, and the Blackhawks currently have a lot of that on the power play.

“[On] 5-on-5 and the power play, when you’re scoring and you’re confident, things continue in that trend,” Toews said. “We’ve been seeing that right now and obviously it’s something we want to continue with.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.


Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.