Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks power play still may be the unwanted playoff party pooper

I hate to interrupt this Blackhawks' weekend of celebration with a nagging question. Chicago has waited a long time to have a season that didn't end up in the obituary section, often dead and laid to rest before the playoffs began, and we should be focusing heartily on being the life of this party for a change and relishing the rebirth.

But I have been examining the books to see how much in the black the Blackhawks are, just how much capital we have to spend in the postseason, and I find the same deficiency as last April. Someone has embezzled the power play for the second straight year and we enter this important time of the year as naked and bankrupt as we did last year on the power play.

Has any club ever won the Stanley Cup championship with a power play that refuses to join the party? There are several bothersome questions tugging at this urge to perhaps blow our horns if we win in Colorado Friday night and put Detroit in their place as second best to the Hawks in the season finale Sunday to win the West.

Yes, wave those No. 1 fingers. And yet that damned middle finger remains restless at this moment of joy, always shooting up like an obnoxious intruder.

The stickiest question to me is how do the Hawks propose to win 16 playoff games with a power play that can't match San Jose, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Detroit or Colorado? Those clubs range from 21.6 per cent success to 18.4, everywhere from third in the NHL to 12th for the regular season.

The Hawks are 17th at 17.5, even worse on their ballyhooed home ice, and the best they can say about that is defending champion Pittsburgh is a neighbor in that low-rent district at 19th and 17.2.

Rather than hope for a Cup rematch with the Penguins 18 years down the road, I think we'd best face up to this potentially fatal flaw in our celebration.

Now, I understand this same power play concern was alleviated in the 2009 playoffs when the Hawks excelled with the man advantage. When the time came to step up, they surged ahead full force with Jonathan Toews' five power-play goals in 17 postseason games followed by two from Patrick Kane and even three each for Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg.

Brian Campbell scored a pair of power-play goals himself last postseason, but someone else needs to fill in that blank with the Hawks and Campbell swimming in the soup together. This club isn't as good without Campbell or a solid power play, and yet they are still posed to be sitting atop everyone in the West, overcoming all adversity.

Is that a sign we don't need a crackerjack power play or a sign that this house of cards and so many aces could all come crashing down when push comes to shove?

Who knew their power-play peak would be the three scored in the second game of the season against Florida? Who knew they would score just two power-play goals a handful of times the rest of the way and against such rather undistinguished company as the Islanders and the Blue Jackets and the Stars, as well as the sometimes Jekyll-and-Hyde Kings?

I dare you to delve into the power-play books and retain your staunch faith in the playoffs destiny of this Chicago team. Toews has one power-play goal in his last 32 games. Kane has one in his last 18, three in his last 29. Marian Hossa has two for the year, the same numbers he had on the power play in 23 postseason games for Detroit last year and short of his five in 20 playoff games for the '07-'08 Penguins.

Duncan Keith has one power-play goal since Jan. 10. Kris Versteeg last scored on the power play March 13, his first time since Nov. 19. Patrick Sharp is on a 20-game streak without any power-play goals. His last time was Feb. 13.

The Hawks are 0-for-18 on the power play in their last seven games. And just to rattle your nerves a little bit further--the Hawks defense has seen opponents penetrate it for 30 or more shots nine times in the last 15 games.

Go back and look at comparable 15-game stretches this year. At no time has their defense given up as much shots as many times as recently. From March 10 until now, other teams haven't been repelled and held in check as much as usual, while the Hawks controlled the puck and the tempo with extraordinary aplomb.

Only numbers, I know. Numbers that the Hawks turned around last postseason, especially when their power play responded to the challenge of win-or-go-home.

I guess we should just keep the faith and believe we are going to see a whole new Hawks' power play again once the new season arrives. If that new team doesn't show up, it will be same old result as Chicago fans have witnessed in so many postseasons.

The Hawks' penalty killing is so good it takes some focus off the bad power play. Their team work ethic and even-strength play is so good it takes some focus off the bad power play. The combo of defense and limiting shots is so good it takes some focus off the bad power play.

Most teams have some weaknesses. But can you win the Stanley Cup without a power play? I'm afraid we all the know the answer.

Therefore, we wouldn't mind at all if the power play decided to join the party in the final weekend of the regular season. Just so we don't have to issue a special invitation for it to show up on time come the postseason.

No one likes a party pooper.

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11 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, as an addendum to your forensic analysis, would it be fair to say that the Hawk (or Hawks) who pick up the slack for the PP in the playoffs, and thus pre-empt the 'party pooper', would be known as the "Pooper Scooper(s)"?

Just wondering.

Mike Kiley said:

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I guess it's a positive sign of how much Hawks fans believe in their team that power play isn't a concern. I hope they are right.

OneTeam said:

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Interesting stuff per usual Mike. I have to believe that the Hawks will improve the PP again this post season. They better, it certainly can be life and death for a playoff run. As goals dry up in the second season, the PP can often become the only way to beat a red hot goalie or solid defense. If the Hawks find themselves unable to capitalize on the man advantage, not only does that keep them off the board but worse it can also act as a momentum swing/confidence builder for the opposing team. Most times (especially in the playoffs) when a team digs themselves out of a hole with a good PK it will energize them and kick start their offensive attack.

It seems that the list just continues to build with just a week to go: 1. Rookie goalie- How will he respond to post season pressure and absurdly high expectations at home? 2. Defensive holes- Loss of Campbell and now Buff's new role to fill that spot. If Buff is "learning" the position on the job and has trouble with positioning (getting back) when after jumping up in a play, how long before those odd man rushes start producing game deciding goals? Also, Buff was a quality screen man in front of the net during last years run, who is taking his place to handle that massively important function? 3. Coach Q- Will his seeming inability to make effective adjustments throughout this season carry over in the playoffs from game to game or series to series? 4. Playing 60 minutes- That last game against St Louis is just another example among many throughout the season. If with the #1 spot in the West on the line wasn't incentive enough to step on the neck of their weaker and beaten opponent, how long do will they survive in the tournament if they decide to let up when holding a lead? 5. Hossa- Here's one I'll let you in on now even though you wont believe it till you see it for yourselves- Has anyone around here actually done any of their own research on this guy post season? Does everyone know of his ability to disappear during a series, inability to take a check and his desire to ride a coat tail rather than to lead a charge? If you need some insight on that, just ask his teammates and fans of Ottawa, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Detroit, he has done so everywhere. He impresses big time in the regular season which is why you'll never see it coming. The next thing you know, you're calling him No-ssa as he takes another extended breather on the bench during the final minutes of a tight game. Be sure you don't let any of his playoff "stats" fool you either, the points he did have usually came during games that were already in hand and were likely the 5th goal on a 5-1 win. Other than an outburst of unimportant goals in 2008, his unimpressive playoff stats while in Detroit should send chills down your spines. These are the numbers he put up in his pursuit of a Stanley Cup championship. These are the numbers he finished with when ultimately pitted against the team he abandonded the year before. These are the numbers he posted to ensure that he did not see the Cup skated away by the opposing team twice in two years. These are the numbers of a 4th line player or one that spends most of their days killing penalties. (but I digress)

Finally you so insightfully added the Power Play to this list. I believe you covered this one exceptionally well. Now some won't see these as major issues or will even validate that they are real at all. Some may see them as issues that can be overcome "on the fly" during the tournament. I think they are all very real and any of them individually could cost the Hawks a series much less several of them combined. Certainly the Hawks are not the only team coming into the post season with warts but the question that matters is.....can they win it all with theirs?


HawksRule said:

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One Team - It always amazes me how much personal time you waste writing about a team you're not a fan of. Thanks for repeatedly trying to convince us that the team we follow will lose. We respectfully choose not to agree. Maybe next time you could write an even longer piece detailing all the positive aspects of this Hawks team. There are many.

Also amazing how so many NHL teams in the past have had "all the pieces" in place to win the Cup and haven't delivered. The Hawks have shown they can beat any team this year with any line-up. It just depends on how much they want it.

OneTeam said:

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Im happy to amaze!

As far as repeatedly trying to convince you that the Hawks will lose...I am not. These are my opinions and many of them based off of what many Hawk fans have said and posted. I think you should go back and read this and the other ChicagoNow author submissions and ask yourself what is the difference between what I write and those articles you have read, agreed with and sometimes posted on. Many of them are identifying possible flaws in the Hawks game and (dare I say) critical of several aspects of either the front office, the man in net or the coach on the bench. Frankly all of the items I listed were just variations from previous comments made by Hawks fans on this very site. (Buff on D was almost directly lifted off a comment from Marks last blog for example) The only one I really added to this discussion was with regards to Hossa. Like I said about him, you may not believe it so you'll just have to see for yourself.

So just out of curiousity, what points do you disagree with?

I guess knowing my allegiance somehow makes comments that you had originally agreed with throughout the last month become invalid? When Mike makes a case for a struggling PP you may see no issue with his research but if I agree it then becomes void?

I don't come on here and talk about my team and how great I think they are or say things like Hawks suck or anything like that. I am just a die-hard hockey fan living in Chicago. Since all I ever hear about lately is the Hawks, I find myself involved in the discussion often and certainly beyond this site. I agree I may be a bit long winded and Ill be sure to better curb my comments going forward. I was an english major in college and picked up this nasty habit. All apologies. But at least you can say I am trying to stay informed about it and not just spewing rhetoric.

I appreciate the fact that no one really wants to hear about their teams troubles.. especially right before the playoffs. But I am not leading the charge on this stuff. This article is an easy example of that. Don't kill the messenger, I am just agreeing with his and past comments.

Lastly, I have noted positive aspects of this Hawks team before. Sorry you missed them. I think their youth and energy combined with their fierce offensive attack are qualities of a team that can do a lot of damage in the playoffs. I have never said that a team needs "all the pieces" in place to win the Cup because I don't recall a team that has had no flaws going in. That is why I ended my comment with:
" Certainly the Hawks are not the only team coming into the post season with warts but the question that matters is.....can they win it all with theirs?"

HawksRule said:

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Your charade on this blog isn't fooling us. You don't care at all about the Hawks or their fans, so please stop trying to make us believe you do.

Your true colors have come though in the past. Read your own previous cocky, sarcastic posts if you actually believe you haven't come on here talking about how great the Wings are, or if you think you haven't put down the Hawks or some of the contributors on this blog. Give us all a break.

And yes, we care what Mark and Mike write because they're fellow Hawk fans. Your lack of respect for the team in the past has put you into a different category.

OneTeam said:

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Im not trying to pretend that I care about the Hawks- Im just talking hockey. Admittedly I posted some things on here that could be considered rude when I first came to the site. But after reading more and more, I enjoyed the quality of the blog and committed to lowering the rhetoric and keeping it all things hockey or Hawks. The past month and a half speaks for itself.

Im just sharing in the opinions that many others have already expressed on this site. Why dont you try adding an opinion instead of worrying so much about mine. I mean, do you agree with Mike about the PP or what?

I am suprised at your reaction and whinning- I think its funny that you are getting your feathers so ruffled over it.

Ill keep posting about hockey and you keep doing... whatever it is that you do on this site.

Dave Morris said:

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So how long have you been a Penguins fan?

OneTeam said:

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Not a fan but I respect their team and what they have done over the past few years.

blkhawk11 said:

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Well stated and the facts have been indicated this season as well as history. Confidence, consistency and true DESIRE are definitely the keys to success!!!

Jerry Kayne said:

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The PP is woefully bad. It's very frustrating to watch the Hawks be either stopped at the blue line or cough it up once inside. Campbell didn't make it any better. Maybe they shouldn't treat it any different than a 5 on 5. Throw out line 1. And if they don't score throw out line 2.

I have 2 positive views on the PP:
1. we gain on the side of puck possession. That's 2 minutes more we have sole possession of the puck.
2. I'm counting our shorthanded goals into the power play totals

As frustrating as it is, I don't think the PP is as important as it used to be now that skill and open ice is the norm. I'll take a great PK over the PP any day.

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