NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Patrick Kane’s return rejuvenated the Blackhawks’ power play in Game 1 against the Predators. Now the trick is to sustain it.
Utilizing his superior patience, precision and timing, Kane had the primary assist on power-play goals by Patrick Sharp (on a 5-on-3 advantage) and Jonathan Toews as the Blackhawks rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 in double-overtime Wednesday night in the opener of their first-round playoff series at Bridgestone Arena.
The significance can’t be understated for the Hawks, whose intermittent power-play struggles belie the offensive firepower they’ve had throughout the Jonathan Toews-Kane era. The Hawks were 20th in the NHL in the regular season in power-play efficiency (17.6 percent). They scored two power-play goals against a playoff team only once —in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 11.
“I thought it was pretty good [in Game 1],” Kane said. “I still think we can do some things a little bit better. Sharpie made a great play on a bouncing puck to corral it and put it in the net. Tazer jammed one in there, too. They’re big goals.”
But Kane or no Kane, power-play success historically comes and goes for the Blackhawks. They’ve been in the middle of the pack or worse in the playoffs the last four years. They were 16th and last (1-for-19, 5.3 percent) when they were ousted by the Coyotes in the first round in 2012. Even when they won the Cup the following season they were 13th (8-for-70, 11.4 percent) — proof you can win a Cup without a great power play. But they know the job would be that much easier if you one.
“I think we find ourselves feeling we have a lot of tools in here to have a good power play,” Kane said. “It hasn’t really happened so much this year. But it’s kind of a new season [in the playoffs]. Hopefully we can re-start that and be good at it.”
That remains to be seen. But the Hawks are confident they can build off a good start. They certainly have the talent. Unfortunately, it takes more than that to sustain a power play in the NHL.
“Obviously, having Kaner back is always going to help us — whether we’re on the power play or 5-on-5,” Toews said. “The two goals we got [in Game 1] definitely gives us confidence and reminds us that if we keep working, keep moving the puck the right way, we’re going to get those chances and eventually they’re going to go in.”
The Hawks were not a stellar power-play unit even with Kane this season (38-for-206, 18.4 percent in 60 games). But they were even worse without him (8-for-55, 14.5 percent in 21 games). He makes a difference. Sometimes a big difference.
“Top guys in the league have a real good patience level with the puck and [good] play recognition,” Quenneville said when asked about Kane’s impact on the power play. “He saves a lot of those loose puck battles and sustains a lot of presence in the offensive zone.
“I think he gives our opponents something more to think about as well. He’s a great weapon in that area and can open up other areas, too, if they want to keep a closer eye on him.”