Blackhawks have revved up their power play so far this season
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter October 14, 2013 7:19PM
Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Andrew Shaw, Duncan Keith
The facts: 6 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: November 16, 2013 6:17AM
It’s tempting, when you have the precision of Duncan Keith, the
vision of Marian Hossa, the skill of Patrick Sharp and the power of Brent Seabrook, to try to be too fancy. To try for the superstar
play, the otherworldly pass, the ideal shot. To try to make the perfect play.
But in the chaotic world of the power play, the perfect play is usually the imperfect one — the deflection, the rebound, the funky bounce off a defender’s skate or the back boards. Style points don’t get you special-teams points.
‘‘It’s when you try to take it over as an individual and slow things down and try to look for that perfect shot that things often get blocked,’’ said Sharp, the point man on the Blackhawks’ power play. ‘‘The power play’s not successful because of one guy; it’s all five guys working together.’’
And that, so far, has been the difference between the Hawks’ power play last season and this season. While it’s pretty much the same five guys on each unit, they’re working together. They’re moving. They’re creating. And, more than anything else, they’re shooting — early and as often as possible.
Through five games, the Hawks are 5-for-20 with the man advantage and have scored at least one power-play goal in four games — solid numbers that become spectacular when compared with the last two seasons. It’s early, of course. But considering they were at 16.6 percent last regular season and at 11.4 percent during the playoffs, it’s encouraging.
The Hawks pride themselves on being the best 5-on-5 team in hockey, and that was good enough to win the Stanley Cup last season. So imagine what a decent power play — let alone a great one — could do.
‘‘It’s not the main focus of the team,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘Obviously, we won last year when our power play wasn’t very good. But you saw in the Buffalo game [Saturday], I thought we outplayed them, but that power-play goal was the difference. It’s going to help us.’’
In the game against the Sabres, Sharp set up a power-play goal by Patrick Kane with a beautiful cross-ice pass. That was one of the pretty ones, but even it was set up by better motion, by pulling defenders out of position, by creating passing and shooting lanes. That’s the biggest difference this season: The Hawks not only are taking more shots, but they’re getting pucks through to the net, where Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell can try to tip, deflect or swat them in.
‘‘We’re moving more and not standing still as much,’’ said Michal Rozsival, an occasional power-play point man, particularly when the Hawks are nursing a lead and don’t want to have a forward on the blue line. ‘‘To get the shots through, you have to either shoot it quick before the lane closes or move and try to change the angle. Because all the penalty-killers in the league right now are so good at taking away the line to the net.’’
Rozsival also pointed out how much more effective the Hawks have been at entering the offensive zone with proper form, thereby making it easier to set up the power-play structure and hold the zone. The Hawks have been working on all of these things — shooting more, shooting smarter, breakouts, entries and retrievals — at nearly every practice.
Sharp said the Hawks have added a couple of subtle wrinkles, but he didn’t want to share them. All he knows is it’s working. For now, at least.
‘‘You know as well as anybody that there’s going to be peaks
and valleys all season with the power play,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘But so far, so good.’’
NOTE: Patrick Sharp’s wife, Abby, gave birth Sunday to their second daughter, Sadie Ellen. Sharp traveled with the Hawks
to Raleigh, N.C., for their game Tuesday against the Carolina