Blackhawks keeping it simple — and successful — on the power play
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TAMPA, Fla. — In late October, when the Blackhawks’ power play had found new depths of futility and despair, Artem Anisimov offered his advice about how to score with the man advantage. It was profound in its simplicity.
‘‘Shoot the puck, retrieve the puck, shoot again,’’ he said with a shrug.
Of course, it’s not quite that easy. There are so many things that go into a successful power play — breakouts, entries, retrievals, puck movement, net-front presence, deception and diversity of attack.
Then there are all the bits of luck that go into it. Maybe a well-planned deflection goes just wide or just high. Maybe a designed play is disrupted by a rolling puck. Maybe a goalie just makes a whole bunch of great saves.
The Hawks felt snakebitten for much of the season, particularly during a pair of three-game stretches without a power-play goal. So now that the power play is clicking — six power-play goals in the last four games — they’re trying not to take it for granted.
‘‘It seems like we’re starting to get some chemistry, the units are starting to get some chemistry,’’ winger Patrick Kane said. ‘‘Just keep working on it, keep getting some new ideas and take it seriously every time you’re out there.’’
Kane’s 5-on-3 power-play goal in the first period Wednesday against the Lightning was a good example of the fine line a power play walks. A couple of weeks ago, when confidence was low, Duncan Keith probably doesn’t make that nice save at the blue line to maintain the zone. Cody Franson and Keith probably play catch with the puck a few seconds longer, allowing the opponent to break up and break out. Franson’s daring pass to Kane probably goes awry, and the common refrain of the Hawks making too many passes pops up again. And Kane probably doesn’t convert from a super-sharp angle, his back foot on the goal line.
But it all worked on that play. The five-man unit was in constant motion, the passes were crisper and harder and the finish was there. That’s how it has gone the last four games: All the things that went wrong earlier in the season suddenly are going right.
‘‘Sometimes you get breaks,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said.
Kane’s pretty goal against the Lightning was the exception, however. During this hot streak, the Hawks have proved right all their clichés and platitudes about keeping it simple and just putting the puck on net.
Against the Penguins, Gustav Forsling snapped a simple shot right off a faceoff for one goal, and Anisimov used his long reach to snag a loose puck and tuck it in for another. Against the Rangers, Anisimov went to the net and cleaned up a rebound of a shot by Franson. Against the Devils, Jan Rutta turned and fired a loose puck through traffic for one goal, and Kane swept in a rebound for another.
‘‘[It’s] just shots at the net and traffic, and . . . sometimes they go in,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘Let’s get some simpler looks, and sometimes they go in. I think we’re gaining confidence there. It seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it. We’re looking to shoot more.’’
Shoot the puck, retrieve the puck, shoot again. Good advice, after all.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.