Monday, July 29, 2013
Power play still an issue for Blackhawks
By Scott Powers
An improved Blackhawks' power play would go a long way in helping coach Joel Quenneville hoist the Stanley Cup again next summer.
CHICAGO -- Winning the Stanley Cup eased the type of questions the Chicago Blackhawks front office and coaching staff faced at the team's fan convention, but they still couldn't avoid having to answer once again about a power play that has now struggled for two consecutive seasons.
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last season despite being one of the NHL's most ineffective power-play teams. They ranked 19th in the NHL with a 16.7 power-play percentage in the regular season and 13th in the playoffs with an 11.4 percentage. In the 2011-12 season, they were tied for 25th in the regular season with a 15.2 power-play percentage and were 16th in the playoffs at 5.3 percent.
Last season's Blackhawks and the 2010-11 Boston Bruins have proven you can win a Stanley Cup without a successful power play. But it's still an area the Blackhawks hope to improve next season.
"Special teams is always important," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said on a panel during the convention. "I think we had a great penalty kill last year really from beginning to end. I think our power play is the one area where we had spurts where it was very successful. I think we'd like to get that like the penalty kill, to have that to be a dominant force."
The Blackhawks did have short-lived periods last season when their power play produced. To start the season, they scored a power-play goal in each of their first four games and scored six total in those four games. There was a stretch in February when they scored power-play goals in five of six games. They also scored two power-play goals on April 19 and 20 in back-to-back games.
But for every positive streak last season, the Blackhawks endured an even longer negative one. They had a nine-game power-play drought leading up to those two games in April and followed them by not scoring a power-play goal in the final four regular-season games.
The Blackhawks scored seven power-play goals in seven games in January, seven power-play goals in 13 games in February, seven power-play goals in 14 games in March and four power-play goals in 14 games in April. In the playoffs, they scored one power-play goal in five games against the Minnesota Wild, four in seven games against the Detroit Red Wings, one in five games against the Los Angeles Kings and one in six games against the Bruins.
Blackhawks assistant coach Jamie Kompon spent plenty of time during the 2013 season working with the power-play units. He said Saturday he believed the players were making it harder on themselves than it had to be.
"Just in terms of the consistency of it, that's the biggest thing," Kompon said. "You go through those peaks and valleys and you try to be as consistent as possible. Eventually, there comes a time when players try to do too much as opposed to keeping it simple. When you simplify things, that's usually the way the pucks go into the net."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had mixed feelings about the power play when he spoke about it during the convention. He also stressed it has to get better.
"The power play, we obviously had a good start," Quenneville said. "You're always going to have tough stretches. We had a tough stretch at the end of the year and into the playoffs we weren’t effective. It seemed like a lot of teams in the playoffs [struggled on the power play]. No one was scoring on the power play. We had a couple moments where we were excited and [thought we were] going to take off again and got bounced back.
"That's going to be an ongoing challenge for us. We felt like we got the necessary mix to make it work. We're going to keep plugging away and find a way to make it work this year."