Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks face snake in their blooming garden: a slithering, slimy power play

maddenatcrease2.jpgSo I expect you think the Blackhawks' power play looks shaky? So I expect you think it's only a matter of time until it improves what with all the major injuries and such as an excuse?

But based on the numbers from last season's production, it might never really get better without major cosmetic surgery. What you've seen might be what you get--again.

I think I must warn you as a public service that there is a snake slithering loose among those sweet-smelling flowers and threatening the team's promising start to the season.

If coach Joel Quenneville and his staff can't figure out a systematic, consistent way to turn this advantage into a plus rather than a minus, you have to question if there is an inflamed Achilles heel that will eat away at the Hawks bit by bit all season, eventually bringing them down short of a championship like a cancerous, fatal enemy within.

Maybe to be politically correct I should say it seems to be just symptoms like cancer, in much the same way that Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook are still nursing just symptoms like a concussion.

I personally have symptoms like being crazy and alcoholic. But only symptoms, mind you? Do not think you can come right out and call me nuts or a drunk, or assume just because Toews and Seabrook keep answering their cell phones every 15 minutes when they hear those bells ringing that they have (dare I say it) full-fledged concussions.

You gotta love the NHL and all its phony, unnecessary injury dodges. If Abraham Lincoln had been a Blackhawks right winger, the first reports out of Ford's Theater would have been he had suffered an upper-body injury, would be re-evaluated tomorrow and we're hopeful he is going to return for the start of reconstruction.

Now that I have that out of my neurotic system, let me go to the charts. The Hawks' power play last year was 12th in the NHL with a 19.3 per cent success ratio. The current Hawks' power play is 17th in the league, clicking along at a 19.5 per cent clip.

Ah, too close for comfort for me. I see a worrisome trend. Like my bank account, it keeps chugging along and not progressing as steadily as hoped.

While we have a much smaller model with just 11 games played so far, I think we have us a burning, itching issue that demands immediate attention or a good dose of Benzicane. Can Marian Hossa make that much of a power-play difference when he returns? Hossa scored 10 power-play goals for Detroit last year.

In comparison, Patrick Kane led the 2008-09 Hawks with 13 power-play goals and the always dependable Toews followed closely with 12. Then we dropped off to Patrick Sharp with nine, Kris Versteeg with six and Martin Havlat and Cam Barker notching five apiece.

The problem seems to be in the structure of the power-play process and be something only Quenneville and his staff can fix with a better design. I'm no power-play expert, but I'm seeing a power play that appears static without enough movement and hesitant when it comes to setting up, passing and getting off high-percentage shots.

There doesn't seem a rhythmic flow to what the Hawks are trying to accomplish, and when a power play goes sour and stilted, it looks even worse than Jay Cutler when he's forced to chase his tail and act humble.

The Hawks seem to be pressuring the net well, as evidenced by Dustin Byfuglien's two power play goals so far and trusty Troy Brouwer adding one of his own in Monday night's 3-1 win against those milquetoasts from Minnesota.

That's good. But a power play has to be beautiful on occasion, more Jessica Biel than the Simpsons. We don't have Beauty and the Beast, just Byfuglien and Brouwer and their scowly ilk frightening the goal crease so far.

Who knew, by the way, that former Hawks fan favorite Martin Havlat was so right when he boasted earlier this year that NHL experts would surely know the difference between him and Marian Garborik, the former Wild scorer who defected to New York.

Now that Marty is in Minny, there is a big difference. Gaborik can't stop scoring for those marvelous Rangers as Marty minces on.

I'm getting a little sick of all these sweet, gushy, hokey, over-the-top stories about the ongoing love affairs between the Hawks players and their fans, but if the team really wants to kiss so much ass in public, then let's solicit ideas from the fans about the power play.

Otherwise, all the kisses are going to dry up when the Hawks' special teams fail them in the playoffs, and you will have nothing but broken hearts brining in stale beer and littering a far different kind of Madhouse on Madison.

How do we score more on the power play? Answer that, Hawks fans, or kiss your Stanley Cup dreams goodbye. Q apparently doesn't have the answer or he would have put it into effect.

Let's remember that Detroit was the top NHL power play last year, far and above what the Hawks could produce. Even a stripped-down Red Wings team is 11th on the power play this season, still edging out the Hawks in that department while not being as good as them multiple other ways.

Compare this: at home, the Hawks are 3-for-29 on the power play for 10.3 per cent. The Wings, while getting off to a rare rocky start, are 7-for-25 at Joe Louis Arena for a respectable 28 per cent.

What happens if Detroit gets good? Time for Hawks fans to quit booing Cristobal Huet at United Center and pepper the power play with ceaseless rasperberries.

Kane and Toews have yet to score a power-play goal. Hossa is going to help. But sounds to me like Q has a challenge in getting the power play seriously upgraded over last season's.

If that's the case, I guess we can only expect it to be a success 19 per cent of the time and that will cause great angst and furor over the next several months as expected wins aren't realized due to the shortfall.

What do the Hawks have to do to turn an advantage into a plus? Give Q some tips.

He had better break through that coaching block, soon. Or else the Hawks may not be built for the long haul, just a flash in the pan that sizzled and burned out too rapidly in the playoffs.

Personally, I think offensive defenseman Brian Campbell is a fine fellow. Sounds like a good guy. But putting a lot of the power play success or failure in his hands scares the hell out of me.

If good guys finish at 19 per cent on the power play, that's not good enough.

Answers, people? Slip the Hawks a tip rather than a tongue. In this swine flu era, it will even be considered a health benefit.



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jeff greiner said:


Maybe you can help me to see the light on this, as I've been baffled since its appearance during last season. I've played hockey for a majority of my life-- I get the whole concept of the "dump and chase." It's a valuable strategy in many cases. However, I don't understand why, on our PP, we insist on dumping the puck deep. Why not bring it over the blue line, wait for the rest of the team to set up, and once a man is in position in the corner, pass it to him instead of dumping it in only to watch the opposition fire it right back out? Because we don't have someone good enough to quarterback this type of play? Kane has some ridiculous hands-- feed him the puck anywhere in the neutral zone, I'll bet my left nut he can buy the team enough time to set up after entering the zone. It's frustrating as all hell to see the 'Hawks fail attempt after attempt to set up their power play in the zone all because it is structured around the 'dump and chase.' And hell, if you're going to dump and chase, at least make sure you don't leave out the latter-- what good is a dump and chase if you don't chase? Especially on a power play where the opposition needs a measly second of possession of the puck in order to throw it back all the way down the other way... and then here we go all over again... Campbell skates it up from behind the net.... throws it deep.... player of opposing team gains possession.... said opposing team player takes a clapper sending the puck back down to Huet... rinse, repeat. Who knows. Maybe I'm hockey retarded.

Side dish: Get. Sharp. Off. The. Point. That idea has yet to yield any success this year.

By the way, great bit about injury dodging. Had my roommates thinking I have issues, laughing hysterically to myself out loud.

Mike Kiley said:


Dumping the puck is fine as long as there is a rhyme and a reason. I like rhymes and I hope the Hawks give me a reason.

SkaterRich said:

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I think it's a bit early for this, let's make sure they get to the playoffs before we talk about how they'ar gonna lose it! I know it seems sick to even say that but if they keep getting hurt who knows? Give the kids some time to adjust, it will happen. Let's get healthy first and find out what the real squad is gonna look like before heaving more negativity on this team. DONT TALK PLAYOOFS TILL THEY ARE THERE!!!!! Cubs fans know what I'm talkin about...HA HA.

Mike Kiley said:


If you don't fix what's broke now, no reason to look ahead to anything except misery. The Hawks need to install Windows 7 on their power play system.

Dave Morris said:


Mike, as always, your ideas on how to fix what's broke are terrific.

Jessica Biel parked in front of the net in a Hawkey thong and waving a Q-tip would be just the ticket. She'll distract those enemy goalies better than Buff's big butt ever could.

Does StanBow have cap room for her?

Apart from that, don't really know what else Da Boyz can do. Their new super shooter, the Big Hoss Man, is still getting used to his bionic shoulder, and who knows how long Toews and SeaBiscuit will feel the knockin' in their noggin.

But as long as the rest of 'em keep winning games, we'll keep consuming our adult beverages and wondering how long the good times last.

Heck, we've been doing that--consuming adult beverages and wondering about the good times, I mean--for longer than we care to admit.

pilote3 said:


Your right JG,Cambell spends 20 secs behind the net preenin,razzle dazzles to OUR blue line and dumps.Time after time,&7 mil makes him one of the luckiest men in all sports.

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