Blackhawks’ power play struggling to capitalize on opportunities

Blackhawks’ power play struggling to capitalize on opportunities

CALGARY – Everything has its ebbs and flows in a hockey season.

For a while earlier this season the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was a great source of rancor. That’s gotten much better. Now it’s the power play, which was cashing in on a good clip through the early games has gone quiet.

Over their last seven games the Blackhawks have scored just two power-play goals on 23 opportunities. Through their first 10 games they scored 10 power-play goals on 39 chances. The culprits that have stymied the Blackhawks during past power-play woes seem to be getting them again now: more passing than shooting and not enough second-chance opportunities.

As Patrick Kane pointed out, there are a few times the Blackhawks scored goals soon after power plays ended. Nevertheless, the advantage has been quieter.

“You look at [Marian] Hossa’s goal against Montreal, I think that was a second or two after the power play was over. I know [Artemi] Panarin’s was the same in overtime in St. Louis. You had a couple of goals, maybe it changes things the way you look at it,” Kane said. “We’ve had some looks, had some chances. I still think it comes down to getting the shots through. We’ve been doing a good job at that but we haven’t been recovering the next shot. It seems like we get the first shot and it’s one and done down the ice and breaking out again. So that’s a little frustrating.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks went 0-for-2 against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night. That doesn’t sound so bad on its own, but for 67 seconds of that the Blackhawks were on a 5-on-3. Not only did it come up empty, but it generated little to nothing.

“We’ve missed a couple of opportunities on 5-on-3s,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “As a group, it’s like the penalty kill. You’ll have some hot and ordinary or good moments. We’ve had zone time. We’re looking for a better look instead of shooting it right now when it’s not going in, and improvising off shots.”

There are always parts of a game that are hit and miss at various times of the season. Right now the Blackhawks’ isn’t hitting but getting back to what worked earlier this season should change that.

“I think teams are playing us hard, playing us well. We have to continue to generate opportunities, get pucks around the net and opportunities for the guys who are going there. Whether that’s us shooting from the point or really whatever it is, try to keep getting pucks there,” Brent Seabrook said. “Nowadays, everyone knows what you’re doing and they’ve watched enough video on you. You have to try to score some ugly goals and bang something in.”

Reports: Blackhawks among finalists for a pair of international forwards


Reports: Blackhawks among finalists for a pair of international forwards

The Blackhawks are always active in the overseas market. Over the last few years, Dominik Kahun, David Kampf, Michal Kempny, Jacob Nilsson, Artemi Panarin and Jan Rutta are among the notable Chicago signings that have come from there. 

And they continue to be an attractive destination.

The Blackhawks have reportedly expressed interest in 24-year-old Russian winger Ilya Mikheyev and 26-year-old Swedish forward Anton Wedin, and the feeling is mutual.

Of the 30 NHL teams that have checked in on Mikheyev, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Tuesday that the Blackhawks are among the finalists — although it appears the Toronto Maple Leafs could be the frontrunners. Mikheyev, who's 6-foot-2, 194 pounds, racked up 45 points (23 goals, 22 assists) in 62 games this season for Avangard Omsk of the KHL, and tallied 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 13 postseason contests. His decision is expected to come this weekend.

Wedin has also reportedly narrowed his list, which includes the Blackhawks. He had a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League, where he compiled 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 32 regular-season games and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven playoff contests with Timra IK.

The 5-foot-11, 194-pound winger is expected to make his decision either before or after the 2019 IIHF World Championship, depending on whether or not he plays for Sweden.

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Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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