Blog Entry

Chicago's power play will improve

Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:57 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:33 pm

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the struggling Chicago Blackhawks power play that may not be as bad as its early season numbers indicate.

By: Adam Gretz

The Chicago Blackhawks power play has been struggling to score goals through the first month-and-a-half of the season, which is kind of surprising given the talent they have on the on their roster. Not to mention the fact they were one of the best teams in the NHL on the man advantage last season, finishing with the fourth best power play percentage in the league.

Entering last week's game against Columbus, the Blackhawks owned the worst power play percentage in the NHL, converting on just eight percent of their chances on the man advantage. Certainly not something you would expect for a team that boasts players like Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.

During that game against the Blue Jackets, which Chicago won 6-3, the Blackhawks used an interesting alignment on their second power play unit (which we wrote about here) sending three defensemen out on to the ice -- Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Steve Montador, with Montador positioning himself in front of the net as if he were Chicago's version of Tomas Holmstrom.

Not only did the seemingly makeshift line generate some offense, it scored twice for what was Chicago's first game of the season with multiple power play goals. Two games later in another 6-3 win, this time against the Edmonton Oilers, the same group of players scored another goal on the man advantage, with Montador again standing in the slot and re-directing a Leddy one-timer into the cage. In three games this week Montador scored two power play goals and assisted on another, after scoring just two power play goals over the first 11 years of his career. Crazy stuff.

Over that three game stretch (all Chicago wins) the Blackhawks power play has converted on four of its 11 attempts to help them climb from 30th in the NHL up to 24th. In the 15 games prior the unit was just 5-for-57.

Was the power play really that bad -- or underachieving -- over the first 15 games of the season? And was the presence of Montador in front of the net all they needed to get the ship going in the right direction?

Not exactly. Though, you have to give Montador credit for filling in and doing his job extremely well. (It's worth noting that Toews told Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday that Montador's experience on the PK may be serving him well in his new role. “He does a great job of boxing guys out on the penalty kill in front of our net, so he’s a workhouse ... He’s good at getting himself open when he’s on offense.”)

Small sample sizes early in the season can create some misleading percentages, and it's been found that one of the best indicators of future power play success is the number of shots on goal a team generates (you can read about it in part here). So far this season the Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in the NHL when it comes to getting shots on goal during 5-on-4 play, and prior to their recent three-game power play explosion, they had a shooting percentage of around 5 percent on the power play.

In three different games over the first month Chicago had at least 10 power play shots on a given night and failed to score. How long could that really continue? Kane and Hossa, for example, each have 17 shots on goal at 5-on-4 with no goals (Hossa's one power play goal this year came during a 5-on-3). That, too, will not continue.

We saw something similar take place with the Detroit Red Wings a couple of weeks ago during their panic-inducing six-game losing streak when their offense all but disappeared. They were still dominating their opponents in the shots department, but were going through a run where, as a team, they had an incredibly low (and unsustainable) shooting percentage. Eventually that was going to turn around (and it did. They've since won four games in a row, scoring 18 goals).

I'm not sure how long Montador is going to keep finding the back of the net on the power play, but I am confident that as long as heavy hitters in the scoring department (Kane, Toews, Sharp, Hossa) keep generating chances and shots, the goals will start to return.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Since: Feb 16, 2007
Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:32 pm

Chicago's power play will improve

Bad power play or not they are still the best team in the league and have the best uniforms
Maybe in your conference but I wouldn't say league.

I will start by saying only 18 games in its tough to really say who is the best team. I mean if you go on streaks then the Rangers are the best right now having won 7 in a row. Boston prob #2 having won 6 in a row. So they are the best right now.

If your going based solely off of points then the Rangers can pass them and the Flyers can match them. Pittsburgh is tied.

If your going off consistency and balance then yes Chicago, Philly, Pittsburgh are all up there. 

I mean Washington was the best, then they lost 6 out of like 10 games. Detriot was 5-0 before losing to washington which put them in a funk and put them down to 5-5. Now they are turning it around.  

Edmonton was #1 in the west before they lost 3 in the row and are now 6th.

Basically its too early to be making statements about a team being the best. I mean they have not even played every team in the west yet. I would say mid point of the season we should have a better understanding of who is legit and who was just having a good run/start.

No doubt chicago will be one of the top teams in the league come end of the year but too many teams out there right now that could and may end up being better than them. (Detriot, Philly, Pittsburgh, Washington, Dallas, SJ etc.)

The good news is that as bad as the PP is as long as they still win then thats great. What stinks is when you run in the top 3 all year on the PP and your team wins many games because of it, then the whistles go away in the playoffs and teams can no longer rely on the PP to help them win crucial games.

As for Jerseys...could prob name a few Jerseys that are better. If your going on classic design and history then yea Chicago is one of the tops. Right there with Detriot, Philly, Edmonton, etc. If your going for just best looking then there are many that are better IMO. Pitt, Wash, Tampa, Wild, Coyotes.... 

Since: Aug 28, 2006
Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:19 pm

Chicago's power play will improve

They may have the best record right now but they are not the best team...

Since: Jul 14, 2008
Posted on: November 16, 2011 2:29 pm

Chicago's power play will improve

Bad power play or not they are still the best team in the league and have the best uniforms

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:41 pm

Chicago's power play will improve

As Yogi Berra would say: "If you're relying on Steve Montador to fix your power play, that means you're relying on Steve Montador to fix your power play."

I'm not sure how excited I am about that idea, even though it did work for two whole days. Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp (even though none of them are any good on the point) should fix the power play. Let Steve Montador fix his bad habit of standing by the crease, three feet away from an opposing player, and watching as said opposing player frantically calls for the puck and scores a goal.

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