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Blackhawks’ power play needs more shots

Updated: September 26, 2013 9:51PM



Yes. Naturally. Duh.

Of course, the Blackhawks would like to improve their power-play percentage. Nobody was happy with a unit that scored just 16.6 percent of the time in the regular season, or 11.4 percent of the time in the playoffs. It’s an ongoing source of frustration how the Hawks — despite all their offensive talent — can’t seem to even fire the puck on goal, or hold the offensive zone, or even properly set up their power play. And the 1-for-23 performance in the preseason — albeit with patchwork rosters loaded with minor-leaguers — isn’t exactly what coach Joel Quenneville was looking for.

But here’s the thing:

“Obviously our power play wasn’t that good last year,” Duncan Keith said, “and we still were able to win the Stanley Cup.”

Hard to argue with that. So while the Hawks spent a good portion of Wednesday’s practice working on the power play, and will continue to do so up until Tuesday’s season opener against the Washington Capitals, they’re not exactly panicking about it. While fans already are in midseason form, yelling “SHOOOOOT!” every time the Hawks get the puck at the point, the team sees it as something to work on, not something to sweat.

“It isn’t the be all, end all,” Keith said. “But at the same time, there’s definitely a lot of room to improve there. It’s something we talk about, and just keeping it simple is the way to go.”

That was a common phrase — “keep it simple” — during the Hawks’ power-play struggles last year, particularly in the postseason. But the Hawks had difficulty making simple entries into the zone, simple retrievals in the corner, and simple shots from the point for simple deflections in front of the net. Whether the Hawks were being too cute with the puck, too hesitant, or trying too hard to make a play that would break the slump, nothing was working. And so far in the preseason, it’s been more of the same.

After an 0-for-6 effort against the Penguins last Thursday, Quenne­ville wondered aloud, “We score 5-on-5 by shooting the puck, why can’t we shoot the puck 5-on-4?” On Wednesday, Quenneville said he wants his point men to shoot even if a lane isn’t there, even if it means shooting off target and looking for a deflection. He wants Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw to camp out in front of the net, and he doesn’t want his players to feel like “everybody’s got to touch it first.”

In other words, “SHOOOOOT.”

“Whether it’s Nick Leddy, whether it’s Duncs, whether it’s [Brent Seabrook], whether it’s [Patrick Sharp], the guys at the top, let’s direct more pucks at the net,” Quenne­ville said. “We have the personnel where we should be more productive and consistent.”

And while the Hawks — and the Kings and Bruins before them — have shown that a strong power play isn’t a prerequisite for a championship, they also know they can do better than 11.4 percent.

“It’s definitely an area that needs to be better,” Patrick Kane said. “I think we all know that.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkLazerus



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