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.

'Road to the NHL Winter Classic' docuseries starts back on Dec. 19

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USA TODAY

'Road to the NHL Winter Classic' docuseries starts back on Dec. 19

The Road To The NHL Winter Classic™ docuseries will return to airwaves on December 19.

This year's edition will take a closer look at the Boston Bruins and the Blackhawks as they gear up for the 2019 Bridgestone Winter Classic that will take place at Notre Dame Stadium. 

This year marks the fourth time Chicago has been a part of the NHL Winter Classic and the third overall appearance for the Bruins.

The Road To The NHL Winter Classic will be a limited series and will premiere on Wednesday, December 19 on NBCSN at 10:30 CST after the conclusion of the Penguins-Capitals game. 

The limited series will finish up on January 6, with a one-hour finale episode on NBCSN. Full details on where you can watch can be found here.

The 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will take place in South Bend, Ind. on New Year's Day, at 12pm CST on NBC. 

After stint in Rockford, Blackhawks hoping Dylan Sikura is here to stay

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USA TODAY

After stint in Rockford, Blackhawks hoping Dylan Sikura is here to stay

Dylan Sikura came into the 2018-19 season with relatively high expectations. He was slotted in to play a top-six role in everyone's minds going into training camp, but as camp went on, started to get jumped on the depth chart and it was apparent that he could benefit from a stint in Rockford. So that's where he began the year.

It was a little hard to swallow for the Blackhawks, who lost another Opening Night top-nine forward after Vinnie Hinostroza was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes in the offseason to clear Marian Hossa's contract off the books. It may have been a bit of a wake-up call for Sikura, who realized the transition from college hockey to the NHL wouldn't be easy.

But he took a positive attitude to Rockford after shaking off the initial shock, and that's when the development really starts.

"I'm in a lot better spot," Sikura said. "The adjustments to the pro hockey level is pretty tough and I kind of found out the hard way. But I'm going to use the experience from two years ago when I was up here and obviously the time down in Rockford and hopefully have a better jump start here.

"For me it was important to go down there with a positive mindset. Some guys go down there and they're not too happy about it. But I think it's something that's going to benefit me in the long run. I got a lot from it, improved my game, just getting adjusted to this level and hopefully it will show here."

Jeremy Colliton coached Sikura for the first month of the season when he was the IceHogs head coach. He knows what he brings to the table and what kind of progression he's been making. Colliton felt it was time to reward Sikura with a call-up after leading the team in goals (9), points (18) and shots on goal (90).

"He has played better and that’s important to reward guys when they show a progression," Colliton said. "He’s been more active away from the puck. He’s a little heavier stick, heavier in battles, maybe more confidence, too. He’s made more plays, pucks have gone in the net for him. It’s always nice as a skill player to see them go in."

Part of the reason Sikura is finally up with the Blackhawks is that he's earned a look. Another might be because of the Blackhawks' desperate need for depth scoring. It's probably a combination of both.

Sikura made his season debut on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and kept it simple. He had one shot on goal and two takeaways in 9:33 of ice time, but noticeably skated with more confidence and appeared to be more comfortable. That's a positive step.

But the one thing both sides are hoping for is that Sikura seizes the opportunity and stays here for good because the Blackhawks need to start patching up the holes, not creating more.

"Obviously there's times down there when you question yourself and you question your play or when you're going to come up and stuff like that," Sikura said. "But I think it's important to just leave that behind. You got to know you're here for a reason and when you're called you got to be able to step up to the plate."

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