Will Power(less) Play Kill the Blackhawks?


As the Blackhawks continue to look futile with a man advantage, the importance of special teams play when trying to win a Stanley Cup has come into focus for Chicago.

Could the Hawks’ achilles heel – a miserable powerplay – lead to an upset? History shows us it’s the penalty kill that’s more important to postseason success.

To say the Blackhawks have been pathetic on the powerplay lately is an understatement.

Since scoring two powerplay goals in an 8-1 win at Dallas on March 16 (13 games), the Blackhawks have converted only twice in 31 opportunities, and enter Monday’s action ranked 21st in the NHL (15.9 percent).

However, being ranked in the lower half of the league is nothing new to Cup champions.

None of the last four Stanley Cup champions – Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh – were ranked in the league’s upper half on powerplay during the regular season of their respective Cup-winning seasons.

  • 2012 – Los Angeles – 17th – 16.9%
  • 2011 – Boston – 20th – 16.2%
  • 2010 – Blackhawks – 16th – 17.7%
  • 2009 – Pittsburgh – 20th – 17.2%

As you can see, the success rate varied as did the overall rankings for these teams, but none of them was overwhelming on their powerplay.

Getting something – indeed anything – out of the powerplay at this stage in the season would be a huge positive for the Blackhawks as they chase home-ice throughout the postseason and the Presidents Trophy.

Since the last lockout, though, history shows that a dominant penalty kill is the more important of the two special teams. When we contrast the success these teams had while killing their opponents’ advantage, the theme becomes more clear which special teams unit carries more weight when chasing the Cup.

Here are the last four champions and the current Blackhawks (followed by the number of short-handed goals scored):

  • 2013 – Blackhawks – 5th – 85.8% (5 shg)
  • 2012 – Los Angeles – 4th – 87.0% (9 shg)
  • 2011 – Boston – 16th – 82.6% (11 shg)
  • 2010 – Blackhawks – 5th – 85.0% (13 shg)
  • 2009 – Pittsburgh – 8th – 82.7% (7 shg)

If we look back and include the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings (8th – 84.0% – 5 shg), four of the last five champions have ranked in the league’s top ten in penalty killing. Boston’s 2010-11 season was a true outlier; they were mediocre on both special teams throughout that regular season.

Over the same 13-game stretch of powerplay failure, the Hawks’ penalty kill unit has been exceptional, killing 25 of 26 (96.2 percent).

17 thoughts on “Will Power(less) Play Kill the Blackhawks?

  • April 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Sit Sharp and 36… maybe even rest 19… give them some time to heal… and see what happens w/ new kid-


    At least we get to see what this kid can do… supposed to have great vision/ create space/time for others… can he win a faceoff??? Is he fast enough to skate w/ Hawks??? (didn’t look too fast in the 4-5 shifts I watched last weekend.

  • April 15, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Tab, when do the Hawks call up Brandon Pirri for a shot in the lineup? He only is the Icehogs leading scorer. Is Leblanc higher on the depth chart than him? Either of the two could be the answer for the 2nd line center position, and moving bolland to the 4th line would create great depth (since the 3rd line has great chemistry).

  • April 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Tab’s article is what I’ve been saying the past year about the PP. And Q isn’t going to sit Toews.

  • April 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    The PP needs to do one thing… stop passing. 4 pass MAX, then shoot. good shot, bad shot, I dont care. There was one PP last game where Kane/Seabs/Kieth rotated passes for like 25 seconds, then 88 tried to get cute on a dot to dot cross zone pass and it got cleared… what a waste! just make the goalie make saves. Maybe he misses, maybe he leaves a juicy rebound, maybe you lead him to think you will go high and next time you go low…. something! But that said, the PK is more important… if you win the PK and win the 5v5, which we do, you win games in the Playoffs.

    Wall, it would be smart to sit some of the top gun and them the healthy, but I’m with Dave… Q wouldn’t just sit 19 or 88/81/10/2/7/20 without an actual cause… He does have a reason with 81 and 10 though

    but that said, he should reduce all of their minutes. 1-2 less shifts a game wouldn’t hurt us in the least. We only need 4 points to lock up the #1. Not wanting to be too cocky here, but i think we have it by Sunday.

    LeBlanc should be a nice piece. We will see how he gels. At the least, he will take a roster spot to allow us to rest Bolland/Sharp/Hossa and let them get healthy. If he gels, Maybe he sticks around, but I dont see him taking a dressed roster spot in this line up.


    He has the potential to be good insurance if are banged up in the playoffs. And if he doesnt stick around for the NHL playoffs, he could always move down to Rockford to help their run. And if he does play well, maybe he opens up various trade possibilities in the offseason.

  • April 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    The one thing about those teams Tab, is that even though they didn’t score tons of PP goals, they generated chances and thus momentum. The thing that I am most conerned of is a PP unit, on the road, that can’t even enter the opposing zone…big boost for the home fans and players…the best thing for the Hawks moving forward is that the refs are going to, more and more, put their whistles away…a 5 on 5 playoff game will be just fine with the Hawks.

    But with this collection of talent and finesse, we should be better on the PP…and we should shoot more.

  • April 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Not sure I’m buying that argument, Brad. The Hawks’ PK is generating plenty of momentum

  • April 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Shooooooot!!!! remember those days LOL

  • April 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Rockford will be done Saturday. Although they are playing great, chances are they will not make the playoffs. Let’s assume they don’t make the playoffs. Hawks will have 4 games left to: A) Rest some players (assuming they have the Pres. Cup at hand. B) Look at some Icehogs in NHL games to decide who the Hawks might turn to in case of injury. C) Tryouts for the the next campaign.

    But I would think that Smith, Pirri, Hayes and Morin have the inside track. They have all played in the NHL and are the leaders in Rockford. I am really glad to see Smith in Rockford’s lineup. However, Q is NOT going to tinker too much with a team that to this point has collected 68 of 82 possible points.

    Tonights game should be interesting. In a way the Hawks can help chose who they play in the first round….Dallas or Detroit.

  • April 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    The power play (1) doesn’t have a booming shot from the blue line and (2) doesn’t have consistent net front coverage. Consequently they revert to station to station perimeter passing which allows the defense to stay in their box coverage and be close enough to challenge any bobbled pass.

    Keith (1) doesn’t have an accurate shot and (2) takes too long to get his shot off allowing the defender to block the majority of shots he takes.

    Seabrook seems to have lost a step and he may not be quick enough to cover bad bounce breakaways.

    Roszival is not quick enough to cover the point to keep the puck in the zone on shoot-arounds.

    Leddy, Oduya and Hjalmarsson may be the better options.

    Or better still might be having Hossa trying to get shots through from the blue line. He has an accurate shot and gets his shot off pretty fast. I know he’s been back there on occasion but they should stick with that. Can’t be worse than what they’re doing now.

  • April 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    A few things I would change on the PP:

    I would move Handzus to the second PP Unit (I don’t understand why he is playing wing on the 1st unit) two reasons the Hawks got him was size and faceoffs. When he is on the 1st Unit he only takes a draw if Towes gets kicked out of the dot and that leaves Bolland (or Shaw/Kruger) taking the draws for the 2nd PP unit. Handzus could provide faceoff wins and net presence to the 2nd PP unit.

    For net presence on the 1st unit I would give Bickell a shot, he is big listed at 6’4″ 223 and has 9 goals this year reward him with some PP time, the Hawks have plenty of guys that can move the puck around with Toews, Hossa, Kane, Sharp (when healthy), Kieth, Seabrook, Leddy, Hjalmarsson, Oduya, Rozsival, the PP units are not missing someone who can move the puck or skate they need someone to cause havoc down low.

    One last thing on gaining entry into the zone: I know it is better to skate it in than to dump and chase but when the PK is standing up at the blue line don’t get fancy, dump it in and out man them on the puck.

    If late in a period and I could get away with messing up my lines I would load up by putting Sharp, Toews, Kane, and Hossa on a PP unit with either Kieth or Leddy could go big for a second unit if necessary with Handzus, Bickell, and Saad or Stalberg I would put two D on the Blue line with this unit though.

  • April 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    1st- a bad shot is better than a turnover!!!

    ZERO shots on 3 PP’s !!!

    2nd- I am guessing we were a better % in the playoffs 2010… Mostly due to Buff…

    3rd- I would like to see Leblanc, Smith, or Morin for chemistry/Audition to playoffs…

  • April 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    2010 Blackhawks were 17.7 in regular season, 22.5 in the playoffs.

    However, the last 2 cup champions… 11.4 and 12.8. Bad.

    Don’t give up goals on the PK, score when you can on the PP, dominate 5v5.

  • April 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    The Hawks do generate the big MO when they kill penalties, but they give it right back with anemic PPs…scoring goals would be great, but they MUST start at least challenging the opposition with chances.

  • April 15, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Poor numbers can be overcome. We’ve been proving it all season. But the Power Play can be a great weapon . It would be nice to use it effectively. NOTE There is NO guarantee the PK keeps clicking either. In fact not long ago it was struggling some, especially at home. Many times special teams will fail/succeed for weeks with no rhyme or reason. I think it would behoove us to get a reasonable facsimile of on. We don’t even have that now.

    I bet 30 and 50 would like to see us cash in on a few!!

  • April 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    With all the talk of the PP, which I agree with most of what’s said, what I can’t agree with is the thought that Pirri or #14 is the immediate answer to the #2 center. I think that’s a big reach especially with playoffs around the corner. If Hawks brass thought Pirri was legitimately in that mix, he would have been here by now I’m sure. His game must lack something…

  • April 16, 2013 at 3:50 am

    As far as importance of PP, cannot always depend on getting lots of penalties called against the other team, so even if you have a fantastic percentage, if you only get a few chances, will not make much difference!

  • April 16, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Rockford has a clever way to attack a PK standing up at the blue line- puck carrier stops at the blue line and drops the puck back to a rushing D or O. There is usually a hole in the PK line to skate through. It works more than not.

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