Blackhawks Start Strong Despite Weak Power Play

The Chicago Blackhawks started the 2014-15 season off in Dallas where they obtained only 11 shots on goal through the first two periods. It was kind of  a frustrating start for having all the star power on Chicago’s roster. But the Hawks were able to battle back in the game and win in a shootout, something they had so much trouble doing last year.

They moved to 2-0-0 in a game against the Buffalo Sabres for their home opener. The game was tied at 2-2 through 2 periods, but the Hawks exploded for a 4-goal 3rd period to win the game 6-2.

Next came a game against Calgary where they out-shot the Flames 50 to 18. A total of 93 shots were attempted by the Hawks during that game, and they still were only able to put one in the net, which oddly enough was one of only their three power play goals this season.

The game that moved them to 3-0-1, where they currently stand in second place in the Central Division, came against their division rival Nashville Predators. It was a pretty uneventful game for the most part until the Captain, Jonathan Toews scored the game-winning goal in overtime, while shorthanded.

In none of these games have Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks allowed more than two goals against, but the power play has been awful.

Blackhawks Start Strong Despite Weak Power Play

Currently the Blackhawks are ranked 19th in the league with only a 14.3 % rate on the power play. Outside of last year’s statistics on the power play, the Blackhawks have been terrible with an extra attacker on the ice. “Why?” is the question a lot of people in Chicago have been asking for the past few years, and the simple answer is, they are not shooting the puck.

This is pretty obvious, but in order to score, even strength, on the power play, or short-handed, is by shooting the puck! Put it on net, especially when you are up a man and have an extra guy on the ice! Even some Hawks players have admitted this year that they have been playing “too cute” with the puck on the power play, trying to make too fancy of passes or stick-handling too much. If you want to score on the power play, you need to shoot the puck.

The one thing they have been really good at the last few years on the power play though is getting net-front presence while they have a man advantage. Thanks to Andrew Shaw, the Blackhawks usually have someone to cause trouble in front of the crease for the opposing net minder. A combination of net-front presence AND shooting the puck will result in higher power play percentages for the Hawks in the future.

One reason the Blackhawks have been able to obtain seven out of the eight points possible so far this season has been the absolutely stellar play of Crawford. In the first game of the year against the Stars, he looked to be in mid-season form already, making some of the best saves from around the league in the first few games.

The only game they lost, against the Calgary Flames, he gave up a goal in overtime with only 26 seconds left. On the goal he gave up in overtime, he was being screened by his own defenseman Brent Seabrook, and it was a wicked wrist shot most goalies would not have saved anyway. His GAA is an awesome 1.66 and his save percentage is at .926. If Crawford continues to play the way he has through only four games, the Blackhawks will be in great shape, as expected, this season.

The top two scorers for the Hawks have been Toews and Patrick Sharp, both with four points in the four games played so far. Patrick Kane is tied for second in points with Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, and defenseman Duncan Keith.

Keith is definitely the best defenseman the Hawks have on their team, but I have to give Johnny Oduya a lot of credit through the four games they have played. He played amazing in the game against Nashville, scoring the only goal in regulation for the Blackhawks, while also leading the team with blocked shots (5).

The Blackhawks have six games in the next 10 days, including the Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators twice, and the Anaheim Ducks. That’s a decent stretch of good opponents, and to be successful they are going to need continued great play from Crawford, but they are also going to need the power play to step it up some as well.

 

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