The two goals on Friday night were like little gifts from the special-teams gods. Finally, finally, the Blackhawks connected on a power play that had disappeared for more than two weeks.
Heading into Saturday’s game against Phoenix, coach Joel Quenneville hoped that would spark the power play into some consistency.
“You could feel the whole group there, when we scored, felt more comfortable,” he said prior to Saturday’s game. “We’ll try to keep it going.”
The Blackhawks did, scoring two more on Saturday night. And suddenly, that power play that was looking like such a liability was becoming an asset again. It comes just in time, as the playoffs are just around the corner. For the Blackhawks, getting off the power-play schneid was critical.
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“It just goes to show you it’ll make a difference in some of those tight games where maybe we don’t get the bounces 5 on 5,” Jonathan Toews said after Brent Seabrook tallied two power-play goals vs. the Coyotes. “A couple good shots by Seabs, a couple good plays; both units were doing some good things, so it was nice to see.”
Nice plays, nice goals, coming at a nice time. The Blackhawks’ power play was ranked 21st in the NHL heading into their weekend games. After netting four goals on seven advantages Friday and Saturday, they’re now 16th.
“I liked the power play. We had good motion, good movement,” Quenneville said. “It’s nice to see the finished product. It was definitely a sore point for a stretch of games here, so it’s nice to see something come out of it on the power-play side.”
Indeed, the Blackhawks’ power-play drought lasted nine games, an 0-for-19 skid that had them frustrated, pressing and looking for solutions. Quenneville changed up the units some, in one game throwing top penalty killers Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger out there. But some work during this week’s practices helped the Blackhawks break through on Friday.
“We had a few plays,” said Marian Hossa, whose power-play goal was the game-winner on Friday. “We know we have to move the puck better and quicker, and that changed. And we definitely (had to shoot more), especially one-timers to surprise the goalies. Sometimes you try to force things when the plays aren’t there. We have lots of skilled players on both units, so we know what we have to do.”
The Blackhawks know this has to continue in the postseason, when special teams are always critical. This was an area of angst for the last nine games. It’s turning into a boon again, and at the most important time of the year.
“The power play has to score some big goals if you want to move on, and it’s peaking at the right time,” Corey Crawford said. “We’ve been getting chances all year. At one time we were struggling so much, weren’t getting pucks to the net or getting chances. Now, we’re just able to bury them.”