Monday, April 29, 2013
Power play important to Hawks in playoffs
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks got by during the regular season without consistent power-play production.
They’re not so sure they can succeed in the playoffs without it.
One of the main reasons for the Blackhawks’ fear of lacking a strong play at this time of year is what happened in last season’s playoffs. The Blackhawks went 1-for-19 on the power play against the Phoenix Coyotes and suffered three one-goal losses on their way to being eliminated in six games.
“Special teams, we know we have to be better than the last time we played Phoenix last year,” Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa said on Monday. “If we don’t score on the power play, we need at least to get the momentum. Momentum is huge in the playoffs.”
Prior to this season, the Blackhawks put an emphasis on improving their penalty kill and power play. They fixed the penalty kill and finished the regular season third in penalty-kill percentage at 87.2. The power play has been a different story.
The power play appeared early on as if it might also be a team strength this season. The Blackhawks scored six power-play goals in the first four games and recorded a power-play goal in five of their first six games.
From there, it has been a lot of ups and downs. Their worst stretch occurred from late March to mid April when they went nine games without a power-play goal. They followed that up with four power-play goals in back-to-back games and finished the season without one in their final four games.
The Blackhawks finished the regular season 25-of-151 on the power play for a 16.6 percentage, which ranked 19th in the league.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said Monday that wasn’t good enough. He recalled when the Blackhawks scored 18 power-play goals on 80 opportunities on their way to a Stanley Cup in 2010.
“We feel like with the talent we have in here we should be a top-5 power play in the league,” Kane said. “I think we finished this year around 19. It’s an important part in the playoffs. You saw how successful we were on the power play a couple years ago when we were [among] the best power plays in the playoffs, and it helped us win the Stanley Cup. That’s going to be key to our success again this year.”
The Blackhawks struggled on the power play against their first-round opponent, the Minnesota Wild, during the regular season. The Blackhawks failed to score on seven power-play opportunities in three games against the Wild.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville did spent a lot of time on the power play during Monday’s practice at the United Center. Some players even worked on it before practice.
Quenneville said he was confident in his power-play units heading into the playoffs.
“I like our personnel,” Quenneville said. “I like our ability. I think the fact (is) what we’re capable of is something that all year we’ve had some good stretches on our power play, had a real rough stretch there, felt like we came out of it there toward the end of the season.
“But we just want to make sure with the guys who are out there, be comfortable, be confident, trust your instincts. We don’t have to be fancy. Play to our strengths when we’re out there, and we want to make sure we keep the momentum in games knowing that the special teams really have an influence in games.”