SOS: Power-play struggles (2-for-17) still haunting Blackhawks in the playoffs
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They ever-mystifying Blackhawks power play continues to be a work in progress in the playoffs. Some things never change.
“For whatever reason we’ve never really had a top power play,’’ forward Patrick Kane said prior to Game 6 of the Hawks’ first-round series with the Nashville Predators at the United Center. “Maybe in our younger years, our power play seemed to be clicking a little bit more.
“It’s a big part of the game. If we can get that going, we can probably give ourselves better chances and put ourselves in a better position to win games. It’s definitely a point of emphasis.’’
It almost always is. But despite a slew of world-class offensive talent, the Hawks never have had a world-class power play. Not even coach Joel Quenneville’s renowned tinkering seems to make a significant impact.
“We feel we have a lot of talent in here. We have all the tools to have a good power play,” Kane said. “There’s really no excuse that we don’t.”
The hope heading into the playoffs was that Kane’s return would give the power play a boost. It worked in Game 1, when Kane assisted on Patrick Sharp’s 5-on-3 goal in the second period and then fed Jonathan Toews for a standard power-play goal 5:18 later to cap a comeback from a 3-3 deficit in the Hawks’ 4-3 double-overtime victory.
But since then, the Hawks are 0-for-13 on the power play. They are 0-for-6 at home in the series. Overall, the Hawks are tied for 11th among the 16 playoff teams in power play efficiency (2-of-17, 11.8 percent).
“We’re going to need our power play to have success,” Quenneville said. “We’re going to need it for a lot of ways — scoring timely goals can help the guys five-on-five with their confidence with the puck as well.”
The Hawks made some progress in that regard in Game 5, with some power plays in which they controlled the puck and put pressure on the Predators’ penalty kill. But even Quenneville noted the Hawks need more than that at this point.
“Last game was the first time in a few games where we’ve had some sustained, time,” Quenneville said. “There have been a lot of broken power plays and it’s almost like shortened in a few of them. It’s tough to really get that real good measurement of evaluating it. Certainly it’s got to be better. We’re looking to generate not just threats to score, but to put some pucks in the net.”
The Hawks have won the Stanley Cup without a stellar power play. But — eventually perhaps — this team might need a little more production with the man-advantage to make the difference.
“It always seems to come down to special teams,” Kane said. “You can say [in Game 5], they scored a goal on the power play and they get the [3-1] lead and kind of take off and run with it.
“It’s a good way for your top players to get the puck, feel the puck, make some plays, get some confidence and maybe that can cross over into 5-on-5 play, too.
“I think a lot of us take pride in it. We want to get better. We want to be able to score and capitalize, especially in big points in the game or early points where you can get a lead. Every time we get a crack at it, it’s even more important to try and convert.”