The power play has been a sore subject all season long for the Chicago Blackhawks, in fact, it was an unfavorable topic last season too! While the special teams unit for the penalty kill showed a dramatic improvement over its dismal existence in 2011-2012, the power play remains one part of Chicago’s game that is still in need of some TLC… or perhaps a strong whack to the back of the head.
The Blackhawks finished the 2012-2013 season 19th in the league at 16.7 PP% with 25 power play goals out of 150 power play opportunities. The Hawks were about even in opportunities and goals at home and on the road, with outcomes slightly favoring their home ice production.
One thing the Blackhawks have had going for them all season long is their depth. Offensively and defensively talented, the Hawks have been able to count on all four lines to produce on the ice. This depth holds true for man-advantage situations, with eight separate skaters contributing to twenty-five power play goals and thirteen players with power play goal assists.
Patrick Kane, who led the Blackhawks in points for the season, held an easy lead in PPGs (8) for Chicago, as well as assists (9). Marian Hossa takes second in power play goals with four, and surprisingly Brent Seabrook is next in line with three PPGs thanks to a double dose of power play prowess against Phoenix at the end of the season. Defenseman Duncan Keith is second with power play assists at seven, in a close race next to Nick Leddy and Patrick Sharp at six PPG assists.
The Blackhawks have also been more successful against certain teams over others this year with their power play opportunities. Chicago has scored at least one PPG against eleven of their fourteen Western Conference opponents. Interestingly, the Hawks have a PPG against every WC team except the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Round 1 playoff opponent the Minnesota Wild.
Starting the season off on the right skate, Patrick Kane scored the first goal of the season, a power play goal, against the reining Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings less than four minutes into the first period. The Blackhawks went on to score six PPGs in their next five games and maintained a mid 20s PP% before dropping opportunities and their league rank.
The biggest hit to the Blackhawks PP% came as a result of a nine game stretch with nineteen PP opportunities and zero PPGs. That drought can be even more dramatic if stretched to the 12-game period between March 25 and April 15 when the Hawks had thirty-two power play opportunities and only one PPG, dropping them from an 18.5 PP% to a sad 15.4 PP%.
Why the drop? A lot of articles came up during this time citing the absence of Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa for the lack of power play production. The extended PPG drought of 12 games stretches between the dates of March 25 and April 15. While both Hossa and Sharp were out with injuries for at least a portion of that time, I’m not entirely convinced that is the reason for the lackluster special teams’ performance.
Patrick Sharp missed almost twenty games with the Blackhawks this season, during that time the Hawks faced 49 power play opportunities and capitalized during 9 of them. Now, who is to say that if Sharp were on the ice for those he wouldn’t have made magic on the ice for the Blackhawks, but of his six goals this season, only one of them is a power play goal. Of course, more than likely Sharp would have contributed to the magic of a teammate, given that of his 14 assists, almost half of them (6) are power play goal assists.
Something to note is that during Sharp’s second absence of the season between April 14 and April 22, the Blackhawks managed to score four PPGs in fifteen opportunities via Seabrook (2), Keith (1) and Hossa (1). Kane had three assists on those goals while Leddy had two.
The more likely reason for the long drop off? It was halfway through the season and enough teams had figured out how to defend against the Blackhawks so-so power play. The Blackhawks were the team to beat through the top half of the season during their undefeated (in regulation) streak, and after studying the ins and outs of one of the best offensive units in the league, you can bet that teams around the WC focused in on taking away the Hawks’ speed and slot, especially on the power play.
The MVP of PPG:
The obvious standout is Patrick Kane as the Blackhawks’ most valuable player in terms of power play execution, but Kane may be just a bit too obvious with his eight PPGs and nine PPG assists. No. 88 alone may not be enough to tip the special teams scale with out defenseman Nick Leddy.
The young second line defenseman is responsible for two power play goals of his own and six power play goal assists. Four of those assists he was teamed up with Kane for the assist point, and he notched his other two helping 88 get the PPG.
A talented player who continues to tighten his game and is a clear support for his teammates, Nick Leddy might be a key to the Blackhawks’ power play comeback.