Hawks' power play still a work in progress

April, 19, 2013
4/19/13
12:09
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Marian HossaBill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa says an improved power play is vital for the Hawks in the playoffs.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and his players returned to the drawing board Thursday in hopes of finding an answer to their struggling power play.

The Blackhawks haven't scored in their last 19 power-play opportunities covering a span of nine games. Their last power-play goal came against the Anaheim Ducks on March 29.

The Blackhawks haven't been sizzling on the power play all season, but it's been worse in the past month. Since scoring two power-play goals against the Dallas Stars on March 16 and raising their power-play percentage to 18.8, which was then tied for 13th in the league, the Blackhawks have scored just two power-play goals on their last 35 chances. Their percentage dropped to 15.4, which is 20th in the league.

"We're not happy with it," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Thursday's practice. "We're working on it here regularly each and every day. Whether it's the personnel or what we're trying to do on the ice, I think that's the one sore spot we've had as we've had our second part of the season here.

"The guys, they want to see it resolved as well knowing whether we're getting production or high-scoring chances or quality-scoring chances. [That] is what we're looking for. We lost some momentum over the last couple games in that area. I think that's the one area we want to make sure that can ignite our offense. We know how valuable those timely goals from the power play (can be)."

The Blackhawks haven't been too affected by their lack of power-play production so far. They clinched the top seed in the Western Conference on Wednesday and lead the NHL with 70 points. Even as they've gone without a power-play goal in their last nine games, their record has been 8-0-1 during that stretch.

Forward Marian Hossa doesn't believe the Blackhawks can get away with a poor power play in the playoffs.

"We just know we have to be better," Hossa said. "Going into the playoffs, it's going to be crucial. It's going to win you hockey games."

Quenneville and forward Patrick Kane agree improvement is needed if they want to win a Stanley Cup. But that's not exactly true, according to history.

Of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners, three of them had a power-play percentage among the league's top 15 during the regular season. The Detroit Red Wings in 2007-08, Anaheim Ducks in 2006-07 and Red Wings 2001-02 ranked among the top three teams in the penalty percentage. More commonly, teams have ranked in the bottom half of the league. The New Jersey Devils even won the title in 2003 after having the league's worst regular-season percentage at 11.9.

When the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, they ranked 16th with a 17.7 percentage in the regular season. They did improve their power play in the postseason with a 22.5 percentage. The Carolina Hurricanes also stepped up their power play in the postseason to win the 2006 Stanley Cup. They went from a 17.9 power-play percentage in the regular season to score 31 power-play goals on 129 chances in the playoffs and have a 24.0 percentage.

While the teams have benefitted from a strong power play in the playoffs, it doesn't appear to be a needed ingredient to winning the Stanley Cup. The Los Angeles Kings won it last season with a 12.8 power-play percentage during the playoffs. The Boston Bruins won it in 2011 with a 16.2 percent in the regular season and 11.4 percent in the playoffs.

Whether the power play will key a Blackhawks' run this season, they're out to improve it. They dedicated time to it again during Thursday's practice. They placed a power-play unit on each side of the ice and took turns trying to score on four-man defenses. Dave Bolland, Hossa, Duncan Keith, Viktor Stalberg and Jonathan Toews were on one power-play unit, and Kane, Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw were on the other.

Kane saw progress on Thursday.

"There's a lot of different setups you can do in a power play," Kane said. "I think the biggest thing is playing with instincts and making sure you're outworking the penalty kill and movement as well. We got a different look going on now which seemed to work today in practice. We had a lot of movement. It was pretty good out here."

Hossa said sticking to the basics will turn around the power play.

"We talk about don't be afraid to use our skill and just try to not think too much on the power play because it seems like maybe you [feel you] have a set up play, but it doesn't work all the time," Hossa said. "Every time the situation is a little bit different. Try to use instincts. We have lots of talent on the power play, so keep it simple, use the instincts and just have fun."
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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