Blackhawks’ Punch-less Power Play Costs Them in Game 1

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been dealing with issues on their power play throughout the past few seasons, but in Sunday’s Game 1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the group seemed as disjointed as ever.

All told, the Blackhawks had three power play opportunities against the Ducks, and they only managed eight shots, and of those eight only put five of them on net. Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen stopped all five of them, and that was a big part of the reason why the Ducks picked up a 4-1 victory in the game.

For the Blackhawks, it wasn’t just the fact that they were unable to generate scoring chances. The reality is that they weren’t even close to doing so in most instances. In total, the Blackhawks had 12 different possessions on their three power plays, with each one lasting for just under 15 seconds on average. Four of them lasted fewer than 10 seconds, and only one lasted for over 30 seconds as the Hawks struggled to establish possession and move the puck effectively against the Ducks.

The Blackhawks started their possessions in four different ways, with controlled zone entries being the preferred method on the day. In total, four different Hawks players crossed the offensive blue line with the puck a total of five times, averaging 21 seconds per possession and racking up three of their five shots on goal thanks to that tactic.

On the three occasions that the Hawks dumped the puck into the zone, their fortunes were significantly worse. They averaged less than 11 seconds of possession time per dump-in, with Patrick Kane turning the puck over on their first attempt and dump-in attempts by Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook resulting in nearly instantaneous-turnovers.

On their other four possessions, the Hawks averaged just 10 seconds of possession time when they won face-offs in the offensive zone (including a brief three-second possession when the Hawks immediately turned the puck over at the blue line) and had an 11 second possession thanks to a Cam Fowler turnover in the offensive zone.

With such dispiriting numbers staring them in the face, the question facing the Blackhawks is a simple one: how can they prevent a repeat performance in Game 2 and take advantage of the opportunities they’re sure to get against an Anaheim team that prides itself on physical play, and thus can be expected to take a fair number of penalties?

For starters, the Blackhawks have got to do a better job of coping with the aggressive pressure that Anaheim’s forwards and defensemen are putting on the puck carrier at the point and along the boards. During even strength situations the Ducks seemed to collapse around the net to help protect Frederik Andersen, but when the Hawks were on the power play, Anaheim instead got really aggressive and threw the Blackhawks off of their game.

That aggression is tough to deal with, but it also allows for passing and shooting lanes to open up. That means that the Blackhawks have got to use their team speed to create a bit of space, and then they have to use that space to be more assertive with the puck as they move it around the ice.

To help facilitate that, the Blackhawks need to control their zone entries and possession set-up better than they did in Game 1. Brandon Saad had a nice zone entry during one of the Hawks’ power plays, skating up to the face-off dot and curling around to allow his teammates to get set up. The Blackhawks got a scoring opportunity off of that play, and it also provided one of their most prolonged possessions of the game on the power play.

In addition to controlling entries better and taking advantage of openings on the ice, the Blackhawks could afford to add a bit more speed to the proceedings, and that’s where a slight lineup tweak could come in handy. Teuvo Teravainen has been playing with more confidence with each passing game for the Blackhawks, and he helped set up one of the Hawks’ best possessions of the game Sunday when he played catch with Duncan Keith from the blue line to the slot. The play threw Anaheim off of their stride, and it enabled the Blackhawks to get a potential scoring chance out of the sequence.

Adding Teravainen to the mix will only help the power play to move the puck better, and that would be a big step in the right direction for a team that could use a shot in the arm on the man-advantage.

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