MANHATTAN BEACH – The special-teams work was a high priority at Sunday afternoon’s practice, a necessity after the failures there, most notably on the power play, in Game 3.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ power-play issues have reared their unproductive heads again, especially on the road. The last time they scored a road goal on the advantage was (gasp) Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. So with the advantage proving painfully disadvantageous on Saturday night, changes were made.
Brent Seabrook was part of the top power-play unit and Patrick Sharp was on the second as the Blackhawks looked for answers heading into Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. The Blackhawks trail 2-1 in the Western Conference Final, and generating anything on the four power plays they had in Game 3 would’ve been a big help. Instead they languished, losing any momentum they had and struggling to regain it once they returned to 5-on-5.
So changes, there shall be.
“We know we didn’t create any goals and, at least when we don’t score we want to create chances to get momentum,” Marian Hossa said. “Today we had a few changes and hopefully that’ll bring what we’re looking for.”
The Blackhawks’ power play hasn’t been entirely powerless; they have seven goals on it at home this postseason. Why such a big difference, then, between home and road power plays?
“It’s tough to say exactly why. It shouldn’t make much of a difference,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You should be a little more comfortable at home. At the same time, on the road, we don’t want to change what we’re doing, how we’re entering, what our objective is. I just think I liked today’s practice. The power play, the way we’re moving it around, we had a good buzz out there, a little pace to it. We’re coming off a tough night; let’s get excited about being out there and turning it around tomorrow.”
Seabrook scored the Blackhawks’ lone road power-play goal this season. The guy who screened Ryan Miller, Andrew Shaw, is also on that top power-play unit. It’s a subtle change, but one the Blackhawks hope starts generating something.
“The power play’s a huge part of the playoffs and when you have success on special teams, usually you find yourselves in good position to win,” Patrick Kane said. “We know the power play has to be better. I thought we moved it around pretty good in practice today but at the same time, when we do get those opportunities, we’ve got to be excited about it and make sure the guys on the ice take it upon themselves to at least get momentum, get some shots and if they find the back of the net, that’s a positive obviously.”
Again, it also goes back to sustaining some momentum, even if the goal isn’t there. The Blackhawks haven’t done that, nor have they generated enough good scoring opportunities. Credit the Kings’ penalty kill for denying them those; ultimately, however, the Blackhawks have to find a way through it.
“It would have been nice to get one on the power play. You see their power play went out and score a couple times (and it was) probably the difference in the game,” Sharp said. “You mix things up, try some new things and make sure you make it count tomorrow. You make adjustments, you make changes throughout the course of a series. Joel is well known for that. We're used to that as players. Whatever he decides to throw at us we're going to adjust accordingly and apply it as best we can."