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Why isn’t Patrick Kane scoring on the power play?

Kane was tied for 2nd in power play goals last season. This season, he’s tied for 135th.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Kane was one of the most dominant players in the NHL on the power play last season. The MVP-winning winger racked up 17 goals (tied for second in the league) and a league-leading 37 points while teaming up with Artemi Panarin to leave shorthanded defenses in the dust.

Things have been much different the second time around. Kane has just two goals and 11 assists on the power play through 52 games this season. His numbers are way down from last season, and Chicago’s power play is below-average overall. Instead of leading the way for a dominant unit once again, Kane’s power play game has fallen off.

And as their best scorer goes, the Blackhawks’ power play has gone. The team is scoring on just 17.3 percent of its power plays this season, which is 20th in the NHL. That’s down from 22.6 percent last season, when the Anaheim Ducks were narrowly the only team with a better power play.

So what’s happened to Kane? He’s just not getting the same kinds of scoring chances that he was a year ago. As part of the team’s effort to focus its power play on one-timers from Panarin by the left dot and hard shots from up high by the defensemen, he’s become more one-dimensional.

A year ago, when the Blackhawks’ power play was racking up goals all over the place, Kane was getting most of his shots in two areas. One was just above the right faceoff dot, and the other just off to the right directly in front of the crease. Via HockeyViz:

The winger was feasting on those shots. Of the 112 shots he attempted on the power play, 71 went on goal, and 17 went in. That’s a through percentage of 63 percent and a shooting percentage of 24 percent.

Now compare that to his shot locations on the power play in 2016-17:

The shots in front of the goal mouth aren’t there at the same volume. And while he’s still getting shots from near the right dot, they’re closer to the boards, an angle that’s easier for the goaltender to cut off.

Unsurprisingly, Kane’s shooting numbers have suffered. Of his 80 shot attempts with the man advantage this season, 43 have gone on goal and just two have gone in. His shooting percentage is 4.7 percent.

The drop-off is staggering when put side-by-side:

Year Goals Shot Attempts Shots on Goal Shooting % Shots/60 Goals/60
Year Goals Shot Attempts Shots on Goal Shooting % Shots/60 Goals/60
2015-16 17 112 71 23.94 16.6 4.00
2016-17 2 80 43 4.65 13.5 0.60

If Kane keeps up this pace all season, he’ll only score one or two more goals on the power play. It’ll be his worst power play year since 2011-12, when he recorded just 12 PP points in 82 games despite being second on the time in ATOI with the man advantage.

The winger has been a force since then, averaging 28 power play points per year over the previous three seasons. Kane can still do that, but he’ll need to get hot soon.

The problem is that he’s not getting the high-quality chances in front of the goal that he was getting a year ago. The good news is that it’s probably not a matter of Kane lacking the ability to do so and more a matter of strategy, so you’d hope the team can make the proper tweaks soon to gets its power play back on track.

This is part of the problem with the team’s obsession with Panarin’s one-timer. It’s become their go-to play on the power play, to the extent that you’ll see the puck get passed around for 30-35 seconds just to set it up. It’s incredibly effective when it works perfectly, but the required execution level is incredibly high. The team would probably be better served to use it less often and become less predictable.

Kane is still an elite scoring talent, and he’s largely being surrounded on the power play with the same great players as a year ago. But tweaks in strategy, fewer lucky bounces, and more passive play have him scoring at a far less impressive rate. If the Blackhawks want to get their power play back among the league’s best, it’ll have to start with their best scorer.