The Blackhawks’ power play, a weak spot for years, suddenly has become the driving factor in many of their victories.
Three more power-play goals Thursday helped the Hawks beat Carolina 6-4, earning a series split and dealing the Hurricanes only their second loss of the season.
The Hawks have earned points in eight of their last nine games, and while many of those haven’t come via wins — their record over that span is 4-1-4 — the team has certainly established a routine of competitiveness.
“We’ve been pretty much in every game and battling, hanging around, whether it’s [with] good goaltending or timely scoring,” Patrick Kane said. “Now it’s like, ‘OK, we’re in these games; now let’s figure out how to win them.’ Tonight was a great example.”
Alex DeBrincat scored twice in the third period — the go-ahead goal with 7:38 left and an empty-netter — to finally give the Hawks a victory in a back-and-forth game.
Kane notched four points, and Dominik Kubalik had three, and Kevin Lankinen made another 30 saves despite allowing the four goals.
But it was the trio of power-play strikes, which gave the Hawks a 3-1 first-intermission lead that eventually allowed them to survive Carolina’s tenacious second-period push, that stood out the most.
The second unit was responsible for the first two of those, thanks to a scrappy goal by Mattias Janmark and a signature Kubalik one-timer cannon. Andrew Shaw scored the third after a nice pass from Kane.
“Anytime you can have both units going, it just makes it so much easier,” DeBrincat said. “[The] pressure’s not all on one unit, and that other unit’s been scoring goals like crazy and making it easy on us. It’s awesome to have both going.”
The widespread belief that the Hawks’ power play has been bad for years isn’t exactly true. More accurately, it has chugged along at the same rate for 10 years — ranking 10th with an 18.4% conversion rate between 2009-10 and 2014-15, then 24th with an identical 18.4% rate between 2015-16 and 2019-20 — while the rest of the NHL has improved.
But if the Hawks’ power play was stuck in 2010 for a decade, it now appears to have time-traveled a millennium into the future.
This latest explosive showing boosted the Hawks into fourth in the NHL with a 37.8% conversion rate (14-for-37).
“It’s typically not enter, score,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Those happen, but [more often] it’s recover a puck, keep it alive, stop them from clearing it, killer instinct, make one clean play, two clean plays and you get a real good look. We’re doing a good job with that.”
New rules added
The NHL implemented another round of new rules in hopes of reducing the spread of COVID-19, which has halted the seasons of the Golden Knights, Wild, Avalanche, Devils and Sabres and nearly did the same recently to the Hawks.
One particularly noticeable change was the removal of the glass behind the benches in every arena, including the United Center, in hopes of improving airflow. Delay-of-game penalties over the bench will now be discretion calls for referees.
Players were briefly instructed to not arrive at the arena more than 1 hour, 45 minutes before puck drop, but after vocal pushback throughout the day, the league reversed the rule.