Blackhawks

Little advantage for Blackhawks on power play

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Little advantage for Blackhawks on power play

The power play, the man advantage: either way you say it, its the chance for a team to gain an edge on its opponent by taking, well, advantage of it.

But the Blackhawks power play this season has shown anything but power. Its been anywhere from so-so to downright anemic. And on Sunday night, in a big Central Division tilt against Nashville, it was completely invisible.

Four power plays, four opportunities to hurt the Predators, and the Blackhawks couldnt even record a shot on goal on any of them. They couldnt win opening faceoffs on them, could barely get into the Predators zone on them and definitely couldnt get any opportunities on them. It was a tough night for a lot of reasons, but the Blackhawks futility on the power play made it even tougher.

Were trying to find answers for it, especially at this time of year. Its a big part of the game, Patrick Kane said on Monday. It couldve gotten us back into the game last night.

The Blackhawks power play is currently 23rd in the league, scoring just 15.1 percent of the time. It would seem theyre the only solid NHL team thats struggling with it, but thats hardly the case. The Pacific-leading (at the moment) Dallas Stars are ranked 28th (14.5 percent) and the Eastern Conference-best New York Rangers are 29th (also at 14.5 percent).

But the Blackhawks arent worried about those other teams. This is about them. Outside of a 2-for-2 performance against Columbus, the Blackhawks are 0 for 14 on the power play in four of their last five games:

vs. DAL: 0 for 4

vs. WSH: 0 for 1

vs. CBJ: 2 for 2

vs. VAN: 0 for 5

vs. NSH: 0 for 4

Other than Sundays game, the Blackhawks have been fortunate: their lack of power-play prowess hasnt cost them lately. Still, special teams are huge, especially come playoff time, and the Blackhawks want to make their advantage advantageous again.

It can be a huge factor for you every game, especially in the playoffs. Thats something were working on to improve on, Patrick Sharp said. Hopefully we score some big goals down the stretch.

The Blackhawks would love to get some late-season success on the power play. Their 5 on 5 scoring fueled them lately when their advantage let them down. But were getting to that time of the season when all parts of the game need to be clicking. The power play needs to find its power again.

Every year is different. Some teams go through the playoffs and excel in certain areas, but you need special teams to be successful to win, coach Joel Quenneville said. Were not waiting for the playoffs to get a power play going. We need to get it better now. We need more consistency, whether were scoring or not, and not lose momentum off it.

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

Stan Bowman has had a busy last couple weeks. He pulled off a pair of trades, landing defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan from the Eastern Conference. He drafted center Kirby Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft that could turn into a franchise-changing player. And now he’s in the middle of negotiations with pending restricted and unrestricted free agents.

With the defensemen group starting to take shape, it appears free agency will be used to fill out the forward group. That could come via trades, also, but it really depends on the market.

So let’s identify five potential UFA targets for the Blackhawks ahead of Monday, when players are officially able to sign contracts:

1. Ryan Dzingel, LW

When Dzingel was with the Ottawa Senators, he was playing top-six minutes and earning power-play time because the Senators weren’t very deep. After getting traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline, he struggled to be a fit there, didn't play much on the power play and was healthy scratched for one game in the playoffs.

But he still has value, although it may not be in an area that the Blackhawks need (penalty kill).

Dzingel, a Wheaton native, set a career high in goals (26), assists (30) and points (56) in 78 games this past season with the Senators and Blue Jackets. He can play in the top-six but might be more effective as a middle-six winger on a good team.

According to Evolving Wild, Dzingel is projected to earn a contract of four years with a $4.25 million cap hit. 

2. Anders Lee, LW

It’s a little surprising that the New York Islanders and their captain haven’t made any progress on a long-term extension. At the same time, it’s pretty clear that Lou Lamoriello is looking to make a big splash this summer in his pursuit of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, and needs financial flexibility to negotiate.

Lee is a perfect complementary top-six left winger who would look great next to Jonathan Toews or opposite Patrick Kane. He’s got size at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, is reliable, scored 40 goals in 2017-18 and has a strong work ethic. Those qualities check a lot of boxes the Blackhawks are looking for.

Where it gets tricky is what his contract may look like. He's projected to receive in the range of a seven-year deal that carries a $6.5 million cap hit. The dollar amount is doable, but the term could scare the Blackhawks away as they prepare to sign Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome to long-term extensions next summer.

3. Gustav Nyquist, LW

The Blackhawks have been interested in Nyquist's services in the past, so they'll certainly look into him as a possibility now that he hits the open market.

Nyquist has scored at least 20 goals in four of his past six seasons, with 28 being his career high. But he's not known to be a goal scorer. He's a pass-first, playmaking-type winger and makes players around him better because of it. Nyquist is a consistent 45-55-point player.

His next contract is projected to be in the six-year, $5.6 million range, which — like Lee — is a fair dollar amount but the term may not be something the Blackhawks are crazy about. Bowman appears to be focused on free-agent forwards who can be signed on shorter-term deals.

4. Joe Pavelski, C/RW

Perhaps the most intriguing player on the free-agent market for the Blackhawks is Pavelski, who’s served as the San Jose Sharks captain but may not fit into their plans going forward because of their cap crunch.

Yes, he will turn 35 in July. And yes, he has a ton of mileage on his body. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down. 

Pavelski is a five-time 30-goal scorer who’s coming off a 38-goal season, can play both center and wing, and is an absolute gamer, a leader on and off the ice who shows up when the lights are shining brightest. He’s also not afraid to go to the dirty areas and is widely considered to be one of the best at deflecting pucks, which comes in handy on the power play.

What makes him an attractive piece is that Pavelski could be a player that makes an immediate impact but wouldn't require a long-term deal. He's projected to earn a three-year contract with a cap hit of $7.4 million. If the Blackhawks can get him at two years, that would be ideal. But like Patrick Marleau a few years ago in Toronto, his camp is probably looking for that third year.

5. Corey Perry, LW

Days after he was bought out by the Ducks, Perry’s name surfaced as a possibility for the Blackhawks. And it makes sense because the Blackhawks aren't looking to hand out long-term contracts.

Perry is 34 years old, a former Hart Trophy winner and 50-goal scorer, and is still a productive player when healthy. But that's the biggest concern. He missed 51 games this season with a knee injury, returned ahead of schedule and never looked the same on the ice.

Per the CBA, Perry can sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal and it appears that's what he'll do. A one-year contract in the $2-3 million with bonuses would be a low risk, high reward move for the Blackhawks.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

Gabe Ramirez, Vinnie Duber, and Jay Cohen join Kap on the panel to discuss game two of Cubs vs. Braves and the battle of the Soxes.

Plus with the start of free agency coming up, what will be Stan Bowman's next move?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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