The Chicago Blackhawks are looking for the missing piece to their frustrating power play.
Ranking near bottom last season on the power play, the Blackhawks have tried just about everything to spark their special teams.
But the answer might be in front of the net. A bigger presence in front of the net will surely open up more opportunities on the power play.
This isn't rocket science—it's simple logic.
Put a big guy up front to block the goalie's view and hope that Patrick Kane can rifle the puck to the back of the net.
The past two seasons have proved otherwise.
The Blackhawks have failed to get a big guy up front. Worse yet, they have trouble entering the offensive zone. Watching the 'Hawks try to enter their offensive zone on the power play is enough to make even the most seasoned fan cringe in embarrassment.
The team has enough potential to make its power play the best in the NHL.
Chicago has the players. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Dave Bolland all have the prowess to make opponents weep when they are on the penalty kill against the 'Hawks.
What's nagging this team is a lack of energy—a lack of spark to hit that next level on the power play.
Now coach Joel Quenneville has put Viktor Stalberg on the power-play unit in hopes of providing that spark. Considering that the team's options are limited, Stalberg may be the perfect choice heading into the season.
It also helps that Stalberg had a career year last season, putting up 43 points in 79 games. Stalberg said that he was on board with the idea, hoping to impress with the opportunity (via Chris Kuc of The Chicago Tribune):
That's something I looked for last year and it didn't happen. I was frustrated at that at times. It's up to me if I get the chance to prove that I deserve (it) and I'm going to do everything I can to make a difference there. One thing is to get in front of the net and be that guy who is disturbing (goaltenders) and creating some traffic and havoc. That's something I want to get better at and (also) tipping pucks.
Jimmy Hayes also comes up when talking about big bodies up front. With his speed and skill, Hayes could be the man the 'Hawks need if he could find consistency.
In essence, the Blackhawks are still trying to find a suitable replacement for Dustin Byfuglien. Replacing Byfuglien may not be possible, but it may explain the lack of energy the past two seasons.
It may also explain why the Blackhawks have been lackluster the past two seasons since winning the Stanley Cup. A few more power-play goals would have gone a long way in taking the 'Hawks past the first round of the playoffs.
Regardless, the power play will be an important part to this shortened season. Stalberg talked about the importance of a big player up front (via Scott Powers of ESPNChicago):
Getting on the power play, I think one thing is to get in front of the net and be that guy disturbing them and creating some traffic and havoc in front of their net. Last season it seemed like no one took it upon themselves to get that spot. I don’t know if there was enough consistently with one guy being there, just kind of new guys all the time trying it out.
However the Blackhawks choose to tinker with their new power play this season, a player always has to be in front of the net.
It's imperative to the power play and quite possibly to the success of the season.
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