Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

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Where the Blackhawks' power play went wrong

Stop us if youve heard us say this before: the power play was a big issue this season for the Blackhawks. And on Wednesday, as the team headed for another long summer, the possible problems were bandied about.

It was about the coaches and what they couldve done to fix it.

It was about the players, and how they needed to execute it.

But for the players, it was about the big guy in front of the net or, more to the point, the big guy who wasnt in front of the net.

As the Blackhawks ponder a lot of off-season questions, one has to be about fixing the power play. And the players may be onto something; the days of having that big body in front of the net have dissipated for the Blackhawks. Theyre fine with perimeter stars, not so bad on the point. But down in front? A little help might be needed.

Obviously, any good power play has a guy in front of the net all the time, Duncan Keith said. You look at Detroit and their power play and (Tomas) Holmstroms been there for the last 10 years, sitting in front of the net.

Those Red Wings are also out of the playoffs in the first round, but their power play probably wasnt the reason why; it was ranked seventh this regular season. The Blackhawks used to have those guys, with Tomas Kopecky and Troy Brouwer being the latest who were lost to free agencytraded before this season began.

We have a lot of identity on that PP, if you look at the guys on there that put up points. But Kaners talked about having that front-net presence being huge for us, Dave Bolland said. Its big to have that goalie screen and have a big body in front. Goalies hate it. Thats probably one of the main things.

Is that the only issue with the power play? Probably not. The Blackhawks still seemed to get too caught up in setting up the power play instead of going on the attack immediately. There was a good deal of waiting and passing, and faceoffs were also an issue at times.

Its probably a combination of several things, Keith said. I think for one thing, our confidence was probably a factor. Wed get going, get on a bad start and it almost got in our heads. For whatever reason, I dont know why. Theres no reason for it with the talent we have. I know I could be better at it, help it out. Thats an area I think Ive done well on in the past but its an area I think I can help out in personally.

Coach Joel Quenneville said, Ill absorb responsibility for ineffectiveness for the most part. But players do as well. Theyre the ones who execute it and they get the quality time. Sharing that going forward has to be important.

But a big guy in front certainly would help create opposite goaltender frustration, create a screen, create a quick chance at firing back rebounds. Maybe it comes from within; Bryan Bickell could be a good option there, or perhaps Viktor Stalberg. He said hed do whatever it takes to get on the power play. Or maybe the Blackhawks need to get that in free agency.

One way or another, the Blackhawks need to find answers on the power play. It was big when they won in past postseasons, and theyll need it to win in future ones.

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.

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