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Second power-play unit comes up big

2/16/2011

Somewhere Joel Quenneville had to be smiling.

It was a coach’s decision, specifically assistant Mike Kitchen, that spurned on the Chicago Blackhawks to victory, 3-1 over the Minnesota Wild.

After the Wild had tied the game, 1-1 in the third period, the Hawks earned a power-play chance as the whistle blew for a television timeout.

“[Kitchen] said to me, let’s start [Dave Bolland's] group instead of the other group,” interim coach Mike Haviland said after the game. “Kitch was right on with that one.”

Bolland’s group is considered the second power-play unit and until recently it wasn’t given much credit for the Hawks having the top-ranked power play in the league. Stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Patrick Kane make up the first unit, but they’ve been slumping. Nine times out of ten, they would start a power-play sequence following a timeout, but not this time. The second unit already scored once in the game.

“Second power-play unit?” joked Troy Brouwer. “Let’s call it No. 1, the way we’re going right now.”

Browuer scored the game-winner moments into the man advantage and just 34 seconds after the Wild tied it. The momentum was back.

“We don’t have the best track record when we’re leading in the third period,” Brouwer said. “It’s nice to see a little change in our favor tonight.”

Marian Hossa used to be on the first unit but he joined the second one recently. The group has since taken off. Dave Bolland had assists on both Hawks’ power-play goals while Brian Campbell scored the first one and Duncan Keith assisted on the second one. All five players on that second unit had at least a point on the two goals.

“That’s huge for us,” first unit guy Toews said. “They’ve kept us in games. The first unit—if you can still call us that—we need to go work on that and make sure we’re sharper.”

Haviland wouldn’t say the second unit has underachieved to this point. He’s just happy he has two that can get the job done.

“When you have two power plays like we do and have two different weapons, you can give them two different looks,” he said. “They push each other to become the best in the league.”

It’s been the most consistent part of the Hawks game this season. And when the Hawks can score two, with the man advantage, and neither Toews, Sharp, or Kane contribute, it’s a major bonus.

For Brouwer’s sake we’ll call them No. 1 and No. 1A. They earned it.