Both on and off power play, Blackhawks keep road success going


Both on and off power play, Blackhawks keep road success going

By Jessica Patton

TORONTO — The Maple Leafs were the latest victims of the Blackhawks' red-hot road power play, as the Blackhawks' man advantage netted two more goals in Friday's 4-1 victory in Toronto.

Coming into the game, the Blackhawks led the NHL with a 27.1-percent power play on the road and have scored at least one goal in 24 games when the other team is in the box.

"I think that's one of their skills: the power play,” said Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, whose team gave up six power-play opportunities. “I think they're really good at it. They use each other well, they really make the ice big and create opportunities.

“Their D got pucks to the net and created scoring chances, and that's one of their strengths."

After starting the season 1-4 on the road, the Blackhawks have found their game and are now 11-8-3 away from the United Center. The win against the Maple Leafs is not only their 10th victory in a row but their fifth road win.

“I think we got that four-line rotation,” Patrick Kane said after the game when asked about the Blackhawks' recent success. “That’s probably been one of the best things about the streak we’re on right now, everyone’s contributing, it’s a new player’s turn every night.

“It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to be a part of. All four lines are chipping in, and everyone is doing what they’re supposed to.”

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For coach Joe Quenneville, who became the NHL's second all-time winningest coach following the Blackhawks' victory Thursday in Montreal, it was just a matter of the team clicking and finding the chemistry throughout the lineup rather than just in select players.

“Our guys are playing well, I think the consistency in our lineup’s been more noticeable here,” Quenneville said Friday. “We’ve been getting contributions across the four lines, and I think early on it was basically a one-line team and now everyone is contributing.

“Our defense has been balanced, our goaltending has been rock solid, so we like the consistency right now.”

With the win, the Blackhawks took sole ownership of the top spot in the Western Conference with 64 points, two points better than the Dallas Stars. They return home to face the Canadiens on Sunday before heading back out on the road Tuesday against the Predators.

But for the defending Stanley Cup champions, it doesn’t matter where they’re playing, the plan remains the same.

“We’re not changing how we play,” Quenneville explained. “I think there is more consistency now both home and away, and we’re playing the right way and everyone’s bringing it so we like the balance.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Oliver Wahlstrom

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Wahlstrom already has an NHL-caliber shot with a quick release and the ability to create space for himself and linemates. He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot, and can hit a one-timer as good or better than many professional players."

NHL player comparable: Phil Kessel

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would probably prefer to take a defenseman at No. 8, but because four of them might go inside the Top 7, the best available player on the board is likely to be a forward. And there's a decent chance that could be Wahlstrom.

Wahlstrom would immediately become Chicago's top prospect, and a player that has the potential to slide into the top six when he reaches the NHL — whenever that may be.

He's committed to college for the 2018-19 season, so it's doubtful he would join the team until at least 2019-20, but Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said in our draft preview edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast that it wouldn't deter them from picking him. 

And it shouldn't, because you don't want to waste a player of his caliber's entry-level years developing in the minors if he's not ready yet.

"I think the way we would evaluate it is, we project them, we try to get a timeline on when we think they might be NHL ready," Kelley said. "But we're also looking for where they are in their development curve and want their ceiling is. I think in some players, you have to be a little bit more patient for them to reach their ceiling. That doesn't necessarily mean that players can't exceed their development curve, I think we saw that with Alex DeBrincat last year."