If there is one thing any team in hockey wants when they are up late in a game, its a power play.
Even without a conversion killing two+ minutes of precious time is a godsend in a tight game. Teams in the NHL, where the stakes are the highest and seconds truly count, are no different. Unless your opponent is the Chicago Blackhawks... Playoffs included, the Hawks have scored 15 short-handed goals this season with a few more to come, I'm sure. Now, this number has been doubled in seasons past. In fact the Oilers own the top three season records, all with (almost) double this number. Mario Lemieux holds the record with 13 in a season, with the Great One close behind with 12. Its not the number of shorties that makes the difference here, but the effect. Very few, if any, of the Hawks shorties are from empty netters. In fact, very few have come with the Hawks ahead in scoring. The Hawks have turned their penalty kill into a potent weapon when down in a game, especially late in a game. The Predators can explain just how dangerous a power play can be against the Central Division Champs. With a minute remaining in a one goal game, the Predators needed only to kill the clock in order to put the Hawks on the brink with a 3-2 series lead. 56 seconds later, Patrick Kane popped that bubble with number SH #14. Marian Hossa then deflated the Preds with the OT winner not 10 seconds out of the penalty box. That same disastrous blow to the ego hit Roberto Luongo and the Canucks late in game two if the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Patrick Sharp, who had two shorthanded goals in the regular season, came in two-on-one and beat Luongo with a back-hander to tie the game half way through the third. The Canucks, who dominated the first game and played a solid 50 minutes in game two, scrambled. The final ten minutes saw few chances for Vancouver as the Hawks went on the offensive. In a flurry of activity, including two more short handed chances, the Hawks put constant pressure on Luongo and the Canucks defense. With time ticking down, under a hail of shots and a crush of players (from both teams) Kris Versteeg found himself with a perfect pass from Duncan Keith with an open net. He fired it past Luongo with 1:30 remaining to take the lead. The icing on the cake came with a Kane goal less than a minute later. With the series tied at one, it remains to be seen in Luongo recovers from this or if the seed of doubt will pester the Canucks captain in the long series to come. It is assured, however, that Vancouver will not look forward to a power play with as much enthusiasm as they did yesterday. Especially if the game is on the line.