Blackhawks mixing up power play lines

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Blackhawks mixing up power play lines

The power-play combinations were different when the Chicago Blackhawks hit the ice on Tuesday morning. Different combinations put together in the hopes for different results.

The Blackhawks power play is struggling once again, so coach Joel Quenneville was switching up the units on Tuesday to try and spark it. The top unit was Andrew Brunette, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. The second unit featured Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and rookie Jimmy Hayes.

Its another experiment, one the Blackhawks hope shake them from their 1-for-22 power play skid.

I think thereve been games where had chances and didnt score, and others where it hasnt been as good as it could be, defenseman Duncan Keith said. We had a good practice today on it. Both units looked good, so well give it our best (shot) next game.

For the most part, the Blackhawks have overcome their power-play issues lately. But last night it hurt them. They had three opportunities in the last 11 minutes of the game -- including a four-minute effort when Toews was high-sticked -- and came up empty. They were down just one goal on their final power-play attempt.

Marian Hossa said its sometimes been a mix of tough luck and poor planning.

I think some nights we had pretty good looks but the puck didnt go in, and on some nights we werent on the same page. We need to know what were going to do before we get on the ice, he said. Maybe an ugly goal gets us going again.

The Blackhawks will take any type of goal on that power play. They liked how the experiment was working on Tuesday -- the 6-foot-6 Hayes, who scored his first NHL goal on Monday, is a pretty good option in front of the net. But scoring them in practice is one thing. Getting them in a game is another.

Thats what you look for: just get one (goal) and you get more confidence, more puck awareness and patience. Suddenly everybody has more cohesiveness, coach Joel Quenneville said. But last night we miss an empty net or two and now it gets worse. You have to change it up when its not going well. Lets try to get a fresher look and maybe get one of those ugly ones and kick-start it.

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

It’s been just over a month since the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in swift fashion. And as Patrick Kane told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning, the bitter taste hasn’t gone away.

“I think a lot of us didn’t figure we’d be in the situation we’re in right now,” Kane told Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet on Tuesday. “All of us can work this offseason to get better. It’s a long time to wait to get back to that opportunity to play in the playoffs again, so we’ll have a sour taste in our mouth for a while.”

The Nashville Predators, who made quick work of the Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night to earn the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Kane told WGN he’s been watching the playoffs and said Nashville “has a pretty good system going.”

“They come at you, they play aggressive. I don’t think any of us would be a big fan of the way they defend in the neutral zone, just sitting back and playing that 1-3-1. But at the same time they come at you,” said Kane, who added that the Blackhawks “weren’t even close in that (first-round) series.”

“Maybe we had a chance in Game 3 when we were up 2-0, but it was a clean sweep and that’s probably how it should’ve been,” he said. “So now it’s time to regroup.”

When the Blackhawks had their wrap-up media session on April 22, general manager Stan Bowman was asked if some players, having won three Stanley Cups since 2010, had lost some of the hunger. Bowman didn’t buy that and neither did Kane.

“Four sounds a lot better than three, right?” he said. “It’s a long time away and a lot of work, but sometimes you go through those situations and you realize you won three Cups and it’s almost like you’re going to be there again. That’s where the reality check is for us now, realizing how hard it is to get back in that situation, how hard it is to win a Cup or go deep in this league. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

On April 22, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vented his frustrations on the team’s all-too-abrupt exit from the postseason, adding that he and coach Joel Quenneville, “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

There will be plenty of decisions for the two to mull between now and September, when the Blackhawks convene for training camp. When it comes to the assistant head coach vacancy, however, that might need to be decided with a more one-sided approach. That choice ultimately should be made by Quenneville.

In a recent podcast, Pat Boyle and I discussed the Blackhawks’ need to work together on some upcoming decisions. But with the assistant coach, the head coach has to have the loudest voice. The head coach probably should even have the final vote. The relationship between coaches has to be there because they’re around each other constantly. They’ve got to be on the same page. There has to be trust from Day 1.

As for when the Blackhawks name that assistant, there appears to be nothing imminent. A source said Monday that the Blackhawks and Ulf Samuelsson have been in communication about the job — Chris Kuc of the Tribune first reported on Samuelsson on Sunday. On paper it looks like it would be a great fit. Samuelsson and Quenneville played several seasons together with the Hartford Whalers, along with current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The relationship with Samuelsson has been there for a long time and it would make for a smoother transition. It might also provide somewhat of a panacea for Quenneville after former assistant Mike Kitchen, whose friendship with Quenneville also went back to their playing days, was fired last month.

Earlier this month Bowman told the Sun-Times that Quenneville will have a big role in the Blackhawks’ finding their next assistant coach, with the final choice being a “joint collaboration.” We get that there’s an order to these things and everyone has to be in agreement with the final decision. But in the end the head coach has to be 100-percent happy with his immediate staff. So whoever the next assistant coach is, the decision has to be 100 percent Quenneville’s.