Chicago Blackhawks: Is Team in Denial About How to Fix the Power Play?
The Chicago Blackhawks have tried over and over again to solve the problems of their mediocre power play.
It looked like they had earlier in the season—scoring almost at will on the man advantage.
But as of late, the Blackhawks' power play has been abysmal.
Before Nick Leddy's power-play goal in the second period on Tuesday night, the Blackhawks have scored on only three of their last 31 attempts. They were two of 23 on their six-game road trip—both goals came during 5-on-3 situations.
The lack of a power play was most evident Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks had two chances on the power play in overtime to win the game—both times failing to put anything behind Ducks' goaltender Viktor Fasth.
Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp were on the ice for both of those overtime power plays—all the skill and firepower a team could want—and yet nothing seemed to go right for the Blackhawks.
Even with those numbers, even with the power play failing to score in key moments of a game, Coach Joel Quenneville insists that he likes what is happening. (via Chicago Sun-Times):
The power play didn't look like it had a good trip, but every game we were pleased with our power play. We like the in-game momentum that it was sustaining or creating, and we had a lot of entries, we had a lot of puck retrievals, we had net-front presence, we had some good shots, good looks, and it didn't slow us down in the game. That's how we like to measure it. Eventually, you'll get rewarded.
The Blackhawks consider their power-play woes as something that will pass with time. For all the skill that the 'Hawks have on their top two lines, the power-play problems have to pass, right?
Not necessarily—for a team that ranked near the bottom of the NHL last season on the man advantage—it's pretty bold to acknowledge their power-play woes as something that will eventually get better.
Is Quenneville's team in denial about how to fix their current power-play problems? Or are they just being overly optimistic in order to keep up team moral at home?
It could be a little bit of both, but it may be a problem all season long if the Blackhawks fail to tighten up on the man advantage.
This season, the Blackhawks rank 16th overall, converting just 17.9 percent of their power-play chances.
That is a huge turnaround from last season, but is it good enough to be a legitimate contender once the playoffs arrive?
The problems that affect the Blackhawks' power play are very noticeable in certain games. Tuesday's game, for example, the 'Hawks failed to successfully enter the offensive zone. They were usually caught at the blue line trying to dangle the puck in, only to have a Ducks' player clear it all the way back down the ice.
When they do get setup in the offensive zone, the Blackhawks have a hard time finding an open lane. Cute plays and extra passes are becoming more of the norm for the power play as of late.
Aside from those little problems, Jonathan Toews says that the 'Hawks are bound to have nights when the puck doesn't go in on the power play (via Chicago Sun-Times):
We have nights where it's tic-tac-toe, [good] shots, [we're] moving around, everything clicks for us and it goes in. Some nights you do that and it doesn't. Some nights you don't create anything. Whether you score or not, we've just got to keep that one consistency where we're at least gaining some momentum off the power play. If a guy on our team makes a good play, a second effort or something that draws a penalty [and] you don't score, you've got to at least get some sort of momentum off that.
Maybe, it's just a fearful doubt, but it's hard to believe what Toews says with how ugly the power play was last season. Considering that the same team has been brought back from last year, it's even harder to think that things will just start working for the Blackhawks.
Whatever the really case is, it needs to be fixed fast, before it really starts to hurt this team.
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