Power outage: Will Blackhawks’ dysfunction in man-advantage situations continue?
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Brent Seabrook passed the puck from the top of the right circle to Patrick Kane on the goal line. Kane waited for the right moment before feeding it toward Jonathan Toews’ stick just outside the crease. Toews did the only thing a man about to score his 300th NHL goal could do, which was to punch the puck past Flames goalie David Rittich.
See? That wasn’t so hard at all.
The five-on-three goal in the first period of Saturday’s 5-3 defeat was the highlight of a deflating three-game trip to Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary that added precisely zero points to the Blackhawks’ -season total.
The Hawks headed home with a list of things to feel bad about, none more pressing than their toothless power play. How big of an anomaly was Toews’ goal? Put it this way: It was his second power-play tally of the season, making him the only Hawks player with more than one.
The Hawks are 7-for-50 on the power play this season, a measly 14 percent success rate that ranks 27th in the league and is lower than where they finished in each of coach Joel Quenneville’s first 10 seasons. As the Hawks wrapped things up in Western Canada, only four teams had been in power-play situations more often — but only five teams had produced fewer goals with the man advantage.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Hawks have a sagging 76.6 percent success rate on the penalty kill or that they’re tied for the league high in short-handed goals allowed with three. But then we already mentioned there’s a list of things to feel bad about, didn’t we?
By itself, the power-play dysfunction is concern enough.
“I would say we’re not starting off with the puck enough, either off the faceoff or we’re not getting early entries that are having some success, so it’s a little disrupted right off the bat,” Quenneville said. “That’s an area where that determination of coming up with the pick if we do lose the faceoff, and getting right in our setup off an entry, where all of the sudden we can do what we want to do. But it’s been slow to develop.”
It was painfully slow for much of the 2017-18 season, when the Hawks scored on only 16 percent of their power plays, ranking 28th in the league. And the Hawks have been in a steady decline in this department since finishing second in the league with a 22.6 percent success rate in 2015-16.
Only Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin had more power-play goals in 2015-16 — with 19 — than Kane, who tallied 17. So far this -season, Kane has only one.
Has the futility gotten into the Hawks’ heads? Maybe a little bit, Kane allows.
“Sometimes when the power play’s not going well, all of a sudden you get a power play and it’s like, ‘OK, let’s really try to bear down and score here,’ ” he said. “The biggest thing for us, even if we’re not scoring, is let’s try to get some momentum off it. Let’s try to get some shots, try to recover some pucks, have some zone time.
“Sometimes, you just need to be a little bit looser. Obviously, you want to bear down on loose pucks and things like that, and get some pucks back. But the more emotion we have, the more we’re playing loose and free, I think the better off it’ll be.”