On a team as talented and deep as the Blackhawks, it’s really hard to say that one player can alter the entire flow of the offense. But it’s looking more and more like Jonathan Toews completes the Hawks offense more than many observers realized.
And nowhere is Toews’ influence more evident than on the Blackhawks’ power play.
The speed and puck handling the Hawks have on all of their lines makes them one of the top penalty-drawing teams in the league. With the snipers the Hawks have on the blue line, and the good, big bodies that get in front of the net, the advantages the Hawks gain during a game should, and many times do, impact the final outcome of the contest.
When the season started, the Hawks were doing a good job of using these opportunities to get early leads. It was also a great equalizer when the Blackhawks had issues between the pipes; one way to keep a struggling goalie from giving up cheap goals is get on the power play and keep the puck in the offensive zone.
However. over the past couple weeks with Toews recovering from a concussion suffered against Vancouver on October 21, the Hawks power play has completely disappeared.
In the Hawks’ eight games before the Vancouver game, they scored on seven of 30 power play opportunities (23.3 percent conversion). Though not an elite percentage, converting roughly one in four power plays would usually get the Hawks one goal per game.
In the four games after the Vancouver game (before Thursday night’s game in Phoenix), the Hawks were successful on only two of 18 power plays (11.1 percent conversion). That’s a terrible lack of efficiency, and it’s killed the Blackhawks on a number of occasions.
Perhaps the worst example of the absent power play hurting the Hawks was when they were shut out on October 29 in Nashville. They did a great job in killing five of six power plays from the Predators, but failed to convert even one of their five advantages.
As the Blackhawks look forward to the return of Toews and Ben Eager, hopefully within the next few games, there should be a noticeable increase in the production when the Hawks have an advantage. Toews is great at handling the puck in traffic and gets his body in front of the goalie well.