The Blackhawks’ power play was bad during the regular season. That’s no surprise to anyone reading this.
They had the 28th-ranked power play, in part, because they took the 21st-most shot attempts (91.34 per 60) and 22nd-most shot attempts (50.17). They shot into an average of 23.48 blocks per 60.
They are tied for ninth with a 25-percent success rate (10 percent above where they were in the regular season) but have gone 1-for-10 during the last two games. The Blackhawks going 3-for-6 in Game 1 is the only reason their power play is as successful as it has been.
On Wednesday in Game 3, Chicago had had six power-play chances, including eight minutes at five-on-four. They scored once, when Jonathan Toews accidentally knocked the puck into the net on a five-on-three with five forwards being used with 4.2 seconds remaining in the first period.
And then they only had four shots on goal in the other eight minutes of five-on-four time. For the record, they had more shots on goal in 4:22 against the Blues in their exhibition win. The problem is the power-play units have stopped shooting.
Looking at Chicago’s four games in the Edmonton bubble — and yes, four games because the exhibition game helps paint the portrait — the Blackhawks’ power play numbers have continued to drop.
In the exhibition and in Game 1, the Blackhawks put the puck on net a lot. Working from a per minute basis to make every game equal, the Blackhawks took 1.14 shots per minute against St. Louis and 1.91 shots per minute in Game 1. In those two games, they scored multiple power play goals, two against St. Louis and three in Game 1.
When they put the puck on net as they did in Game 3 sometimes it just goes in. It happened three times in that game, as only Olli Maatta’s first goal was clean.
Yet the Blackhawks don’t put the puck on net. In Game 2, the Blackhawks’ worst on the power play, they took just .75 shots per power-play minute. In Game 3, that number was .76. While the shot attempts number has fallen — 3.08 (Game 1), 1.88 (Game 2) to 1.84 (Game 3) — it’s been above the exhibition game in these last two qualifying games.
But the Blackhawks continue shooting into Oilers, and not the one in net. In Game 2, the Oilers blocked nine shots on the penalty kill and five in Game 3. That number went down largely because the Blackhawks, despite 1:25 more time on the power play in Game 3, took only two more shot attempts.
All of this comes despite the Blackhawks getting more and more power-play time:
Exhibition — 4:22
Game 1 — 6:49
Game 2 — 7:58
Game 3 — 9:18
The Oilers keep giving the Blackhawks chances and the Blackhawks largely keep failing.
One of the problems is the players the Blackhawks rely on to score are not scoring. Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik are the only two with power-play goals in the series, and Duncan Keith has two primary assists. But players like Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome who had been producers on the power play in the regular season have been held without primary points.
DeBrincat had the most power-play goals among the Blackhawks in the regular season but has fallen from averaging 3:27 to 2:34 in this series. Adam Boqvist, the future of the Blackhawks’ power play, has dropped from 2:10 to 1:57 in this series.
All but one of the Blackhawks’ power play goals in this series were scored either as a high-danger chance or as a deflection. Even Toews’ goal came from the high-danger area. But like all stats, the high-danger chances per minute has fallen during the series after being .46 in the exhibition.
Game 1 — .73
Game 2 — 0
Game 3 — .33
This isn’t an individual issue. Seven of the 10 most common players on the Blackhawks’ power play have seen drops in high-danger chances per 60 in this series. That includes DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and Brandon Saad, none of whom has one high-danger chance. Even Toews has gone down, from 8.03 in the regular season to 7.24 in the postseason. Two of the players who have gone up — Strome and Alex Nylander — are on the second unit.
The number of high-danger chances per 60 has also fallen from 21.39 in the regular season to 19.97. It’s possible for the Blackhawks to be better in that area.
So how do the Blackhawks fix the power play? Put the puck on net more, get more out of Dach as the net front presence and try to get more deflections. That’s what’s worked so far, and it’s hard to stop from the goalie’s standpoint.