Chicago, IL — In 2012-13 season there has been very few things that the Chicago Blackhawks have not done exceptionally well. In most areas of hockey if they have not been leading the way they have been very near the top. The exception of course is a familiar problem – The power play.
Last season this was a problem as well and even though we are in a new season this same problem persists. The Hawks for whatever reason cannot seem to solve this enigma. The Hawks ended the regular season with the 19th ranking in the league for the power play.
I know what you’re thinking, well if this is the only area they are suspect at the other elements of hockey should be enough. That will probably be true in the first round since the Minnesota Wild are not much better than the Hawks on the power play. Going forward however the lack of a potent power play could swing a series.
If the Hawks have to face the Kings, Ducks or the Penguins they will need their power play firing on all cylinders. I’ll even venture to say if the Hawks make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and have to face the Pittsburgh Penguins the power play could determine who skates away with the cup. Hint – the Penguins were not very good in the regular season on the penalty kill.
Now I offer up some observations in an attempt to assist only. Sometimes if you are in something you cannot see the trees for the forest or if you dwell on the same problem too long it becomes a daunting task. Here are some observations.
Power plays are supposed to give the team with the man advantage momentum and energy. The Blackhawks power play has at times not only not given the team momentum it has drained energy from the team and open up the door for the opposition which they will not be able to afford in the playoffs.
The Hawks have had problems with zone entry in the past. They have had better zone entries but I would offer this up. The Hawks are a fast team. Team speed is one of their assets yet when they dump the puck in their chase is a little flat. Here is the opportunity to amp up that speed and get in the zone as fast as possible with at least two of the forwards preferably three to out muscle the opposing pk.
When dumping in try something different. Try a hard shot right on the goalie you may get a loose rebound or at the very least a face off in the offensive zone if the goalie covers either way mission accomplished puck is in the zone.
One of the reasons the Hawks maybe having so many problems with the power play is let’s face it you have less ice and space to work with. They are working with half a canvass so open ice is harder to achieve and find. It’s hard to fly when you are standing still right?
The key to this is movement either of the puck or of personnel on ice. The passing in the zone needs to be crisper and harder than what the Blackhawks are currently doing. Too many times shooters do not get the puck directly on their sticks and have to reload or pass off since they are not in the right position. Optimally you want the passes going so fast that the defense thinks they are standing in the middle of a pinball game. Remember the hands are quicker than the eyes.
The other thing the Hawks are guilty of is over passing sometimes and miss opportunities with one to many passes. The ultimate goal is to get the puck on net. Quick precision passes of three or four at the most with the 5th touch being a shot on the goalie. You should be getting at least two – three quality shots on the goalie per power play. If there are open lanes to the goalie keep firing on him anticipate where rebounds are going and get there first.
Opening up the ice and shooting lanes with personnel movement takes a lot of work by everyone. Ideally you want every one moving like a fine Swiss time piece each element moving and interdependent on one another. Movement and chaos will confuse most defenses. The Blackhawks are skilled enough to do this but must work as a five man machine.
Net front presence is essential when facing a good goalie so you may need two people in the crease if nothing else it will distract him and tie up the defensemen. Preferably a heavy shot is coming from the point to get juicy rebounds.
Use the slot more, in fact why not use almost an I formation. One player should be in front of the goalie, one player in the mid slot and one in the high slot which is where the shot will come from while the mid slot player &/or the player in the crease can either redirect or mid slot player crashes the net.
Remember to use all of the ice including behind the goalie. Gretzky made a career there and if it was good enough for the great one why not the Blackhawks? At the very least it will force the defense to play down low which will open up the points or slot.
There has been improvement on zone entries and face off percentage which is good. Sustained pressure could still use some work and more shots need to get to the goalie. These are just suggestions to ponder and try from an outside point of view. At this point why not try anything.
The key is energy and remaining positive even when the power play does not score. Even the best power plays only score 20-25% of the time.