Blackhawks’ latest switch fails to create spark in loss to Golden Knights

The Hawks tried their five-forward power-play unit again, but the experiment backfired. Over their last 17 games, the Hawks have now conceded more shorthanded goals (three) than they have wins (two).

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Blackhawks forward Max Domi bats the puck.

The Blackhawks’ offense generated few chances and only one goal in a loss to the Golden Knights on Thursday.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Searching for a spark, the Blackhawks switched back to their five-forward power-play setup Thursday.

But, just like all their other experiments lately, it only backfired in a 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights, the Hawks’ ninth straight at home.

“Did we generate enough? Probably not,” coach Luke Richardson said. “But the way we played is in the right direction, and we’ve got to stick with that. If we stray from it, it will get ugly.”

On the Hawks’ second power play, Tyler Johnson turned the puck over in the offensive zone, and Knights forward William Karlsson beat Patrick Kane — who has assumed Seth Jones’ usual role as point man — down the ice for a semi-breakaway.

Karlsson failed to convert that chance but found fellow penalty-killer Reilly Smith wide open seconds later. The Hawks’ ensemble of forwards — Kane, Johnson, Max Domi, Jonathan Toews and Taylor Raddysh — was caught puck-watching and ignored Smith, who buried his one-timer.

It was the third short-handed goal the Hawks have allowed in their last 17 games — a span in which they’ve only won twice. To add injury to insult, Johnson later reaggravated his ankle injury and missed the third period.

On Thursday morning, Richardson had downplayed the risk of the defenseman-lacking unit getting exposed defensively, asserting that there’s “less likelihood of a turnover” when the “best players on the team [are] handling the puck.” Those words didn’t age well.

“We have to be leery,” Richardson said. “We won the faceoff, and we turned it over right away. Every team is going to attack us on that, no matter who’s on the ice. . . . We just have to be more responsible with the puck, no matter if it’s Seth out there or Caleb [Jones] or five forwards. There’s a reason why you’re out there — you’re supposed to have high hockey intelligence — and we have to make sure we don’t turn pucks over.”

One failure isn’t necessarily reason to abandon the idea, but the Hawks have to be dismayed by the constant failure of every attempted innovation.

Raddysh’s hard style

Consistency has been an issue for most Hawks this season. But it really hasn’t been a problem — at least not as much — for Raddysh.

Regardless of the team performance, he seems to always bring the same effort, play the same style and make the same impact. As a 24-year-old forward who just passed the 100-games milestone, that’s impressive. And Richardson has noticed it, as he mentioned after Raddysh scored the Hawks’ lone goal last week against the Jets.

“Raddysh, to his credit, has really played hard this year,” Richardson said. “He has been harder on his stick as of late, and he’s getting rewarded. So that’s got to be infectious through our whole team. We’ve got to see that and start to duplicate that.”

Raddysh again scored the Hawks’ lone goal Thursday — his ninth of the season, moving into a tie for second on the team. He has averaged about 16 minutes per game, ice time he “didn’t have in Tampa” last year.

Beyond the score sheet, though, the hardness in his game that Richardson referred to also makes a difference. It’s not comparable to Jarred Tinordi’s bruising hits or Reese Johnson’s full-fledged fights, but he uses it to force turnovers and reclaim the puck with regularity.

“That’s the type of player I want to be,” Raddysh said. “I’m not going to be the flashiest guy, but I can contribute every night.”

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