Blackhawks hope more frequent shooting on power play will eventually pay off

The Hawks’ shooting rates and efficiency on the PP soared in 10 games before the break, but the results didn’t come. So the team practiced special teams yet again Friday.

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The Blackhawks’ power play is just 3-for-20 over the past 10 games despite producing plenty of chances.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Kane was watching the Lightning-Kings game Wednesday when he witnessed one of the wildest power-play sequences imaginable.

In a span of just over two minutes leading up to a Steven Stamkos goal shortly after the power play technically expired, the Lightning’s top power-play group fired a whopping 13 shots. Six were blocked, two missed and four were saved, yet the Lightning gathered the rebound every time and continued the onslaught.

While Blackhawks fans call for more player movement on the power play — and the Hawks want to do that, too — it’s that type of relentless shoot-and-retrieve attitude that the team is actually prioritizing.

“You understand [the Lightning] have a shooting mentality,” Kane said Friday. “That’s something that we’re trying to add to ours, too.”

The Hawks spent a large portion of Friday’s jam-packed practice in Arizona — their second of two before officially returning to game action tomorrow, something coach Jeremy Colliton hopes will help avoid a rusty start — working on 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 situations.

Mixed in were several whiteboard strategy sessions with Colliton, trying to emphasize how one shot can often lead to a snowball effect of more shots.

“We’d love to shoot the puck a little more, put some more pressure on the opposition by putting pucks in that area, giving yourself a chance to get a bounce,” Colliton said. “But often when you recover those pucks, that’s when those big lanes you can use to make that last cross-ice pass open up. More pucks to the net, recover that puck and then hopefully there will be some more options.”

Indeed, more frequent shooting does seem statistically connected to better chances. In Hawks games this season, there’s a small positive correlation (0.33) between shot attempts per minute and the percentage of such attempts that are scoring chances.

And indeed, the Hawks’ power play has not shot the puck enough. They’re efficient — 55.1 percent of their shot attempts have been scoring chances, the third-highest rate in the league — but unquestionably low in quantity, ranking 23rd in shot attempts per minute.

Encouragingly, both metrics have increased substantially lately. In the last 10 games before the All-Star break, the Hawks’ power-play shot attempts increased from 1.44 to 1.83 per minute, and the percentage of those that were scoring chances soared to 64.9 percent. Those are some truly impressive numbers.

Yet, they went just 3-for-20 on their power plays over that same time period.

“The last couple games, we’ve been moving the puck and we’ve been getting chances,” Kirby Dach said. “We’ve just got to find a way to get more pucks towards the net and retrieve those rebounds. Pucks that are going in the corners, we’ve got to do a better job of digging them out and getting them back up top and making plays.”

Dach has gone from unused to important on the power-play unit over the last month, and he practiced Friday as the middle man on the “PP1.” Kane and Alex DeBrincat are the wings, Jonathan Toews functions in front and below the goal line and Adam Boqvist patrols the blue line.

Realistically, though, this is Kane’s unit to run. And the star scorer is at least taking an optimistic view about its outlook.

“The good thing is we’re in the [playoff] race really without having a good power play,” he said. “So if we get going here the last 31 games, it could be a big piece to our whole team game.”

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