Blackhawks

Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

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Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

Stop us if youve heard us say this before: the power play was a big issue this season for the Blackhawks. And on Wednesday, as the team headed for another long summer, the possible problems were bandied about.

It was about the coaches and what they couldve done to fix it.

It was about the players, and how they needed to execute it.

But for the players, it was about the big guy in front of the net or, more to the point, the big guy who wasnt in front of the net.

As the Blackhawks ponder a lot of off-season questions, one has to be about fixing the power play. And the players may be onto something; the days of having that big body in front of the net have dissipated for the Blackhawks. Theyre fine with perimeter stars, not so bad on the point. But down in front? A little help might be needed.

Obviously, any good power play has a guy in front of the net all the time, Duncan Keith said. You look at Detroit and their power play and (Tomas) Holmstroms been there for the last 10 years, sitting in front of the net.

Those Red Wings are also out of the playoffs in the first round, but their power play probably wasnt the reason why; it was ranked seventh this regular season. The Blackhawks used to have those guys, with Tomas Kopecky and Troy Brouwer being the latest who were lost to free agencytraded before this season began.

We have a lot of identity on that PP, if you look at the guys on there that put up points. But Kaners talked about having that front-net presence being huge for us, Dave Bolland said. Its big to have that goalie screen and have a big body in front. Goalies hate it. Thats probably one of the main things.

Is that the only issue with the power play? Probably not. The Blackhawks still seemed to get too caught up in setting up the power play instead of going on the attack immediately. There was a good deal of waiting and passing, and faceoffs were also an issue at times.

Its probably a combination of several things, Keith said. I think for one thing, our confidence was probably a factor. Wed get going, get on a bad start and it almost got in our heads. For whatever reason, I dont know why. Theres no reason for it with the talent we have. I know I could be better at it, help it out. Thats an area I think Ive done well on in the past but its an area I think I can help out in personally.

Coach Joel Quenneville said, Ill absorb responsibility for ineffectiveness for the most part. But players do as well. Theyre the ones who execute it and they get the quality time. Sharing that going forward has to be important.

But a big guy in front certainly would help create opposite goaltender frustration, create a screen, create a quick chance at firing back rebounds. Maybe it comes from within; Bryan Bickell could be a good option there, or perhaps Viktor Stalberg. He said hed do whatever it takes to get on the power play. Or maybe the Blackhawks need to get that in free agency.

One way or another, the Blackhawks need to find answers on the power play. It was big when they won in past postseasons, and theyll need it to win in future ones.

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 preseason win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Alex Nylander gets a shot on the top line

After having a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Monday, Nylander was rewarded by the Blackhawks coaching staff by starting on the first line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And he certainly didn't look out of place.

The trio logged 14:28 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and generated 18 shots for and only five against, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also teamed up on Duncan Keith's eventual game-winning goal in the second period.

Nylander finished with a secondary assist, three shot attempts (two on goal) and one takeaway in 20:44 of action. He’s going to give the Blackhawks management something to think about.

"I thought he was good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Again, we're looking for his play without the puck. We know he's going to do a lot with the puck. It's their first time playing together so there's always going to be some kinks you're working out as far as the plays they're making and what not but he had a great net drive on Dunc's goal. Those are the things that people don't notice but opens up ice.

"We want to open up ice for those skill guys he's playing with. I thought he had a couple really good tracks. He was forechecking, he was skating. That's what we're looking for and if he continues to do that then he can be effective at this level no matter who he's playing with."

2. Individual standouts

— Dominik Kubalik was given a top-six role again after his two-goal night in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Detroit. And he was noticeable. He recorded three shot attempts (one on goal) and had a game-high four takeaways in 14:29 of action.

— The Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook pairing turned in a strong showing together. They were on the ice for 20 shot attempts for and seven against and eight scoring chances for and two against in 13:28 of 5-on-5 ice time.

— Brandon Hagel was named the second star of the game after scoring a goal and tying Keith with a game-high four shots on goal. He also logged 11:58 of ice time and won both of his faceoffs.

— Adam Boqvist showed why he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2018. He's flashy and has elite offensive skill, which you can see in the video below. He also earned some praise from his head coach for his defensive play, which is the part of his game that's going to be a constant work in progress.

3. Penalty kill still ironing out some kinks

The top priority for the Blackhawks this summer was to shore up their defensive issues, and that included the penalty kill. And even though we shouldn't put too much stock into overall team performance and results in the preseason, the Blackhawks have given up at least one power-play goal in each of their first three games.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, these games and stats don't count, but it obviously would be nice to head into the regular season with some positive momentum. Once the Blackhawks start to finalize their 23-man roster we should get a pretty good idea of what the special teams units could look like on Opening Night and beyond, and more chemistry will develop among the everyday players.

4. Roster cuts looming

In the last four days, the Blackhawks hosted their team scrimmage at the United Center and followed that up with three consecutive preseason contests. That was a significant evaluation period for the coaching staff and management.

Colliton said the Blackhawks are expected to make their first wave of roster cuts between now and Saturday, which is when their next preseason tilt is. The 23-man roster should start to take shape in the coming few days.

"We’re going to start," he said. "I don’t know exactly the timeline and how many and which day, but I can tell you it won’t all be in one day. And we’ll sort of work up to the game Saturday and we’ll have a tighter group, and especially for next week."

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Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

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USA TODAY

Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Blackhawks are in a transition period coming off the team’s long run as a Stanley Cup contender. There is hope for a relatively quick return to contention with a number of highly-regarded prospects.

ESPN ranked the top 100 NHL prospects on Wednesday and the Blackhawks have five skaters on the list.

Leading the way for Blackhawks prospects is Kirby Dach, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. He is ranked No. 6 overall. The top two picks from that draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are the top two prospects in the rankings.

Adam Boqvist is the second Blackhawks prospect, coming in at No. 29 overall. The defenseman was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Defensemen Ian Mitchell (No. 68) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 82) and right winger Alexander Nylander (No. 88) round out Blackhawks prospects in the top 100. Mitchell opted to return to the University of Denver for his junior year. Beaudin was the Blackhawks’ second first-round pick in 2018, picked No. 27. Nylander was acquired in the offseason in exchange for young defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

With five prospects on the list the Blackhawks had more than most teams. The Los Angeles Kings had the most prospects on the list with seven while the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each had six.

ESPN also ranked the Blackhawks pool of prospects as ninth-best in the NHL.

 

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