Needing a spark, Blackhawks see an opportunity to go young on power plays

Last week Luke Richardson made a tweak to the Blackhawks power play by putting Lukas Reichel in the bumper position.

The move paid immediate dividends when Reichel scored a first-period goal against Tampa Bay.

The Hawks failed on their next six power-play opportunities, though, so Richardson made another significant change at practice Tuesday by elevating rookie defenseman Kevin Korchinski and forward Philipp Kurashev to the top unit.

Veterans Seth Jones and Taylor Hall were demoted to PP2.

The top unit now consists of 18-year-old Connor Bedard, 19-year-old Korchinski, 21-year-old Lukas Reichel, 24-year-old Kurashev and 38-year-old Corey Perry. If that combination works, the Hawks may need to commission Dick Vitale to film a new version of his Diaper Dandies.

"Kurashev's been doing really well and it makes sense - him and Reichel seem to have a little chemistry," Richardson said. "Thought we'd try something new and we're on the road."

The Hawks, who have lost four straight, play at Columbus (4-11-4) on Wednesday.

Having an effective power play is critical. Last year the Nos. 1-7 ranked teams all made the playoffs, while only one of the bottom nine squads (the Islanders) did so. The year before, 10 of the top 11 teams qualified.

It's little wonder why the Hawks, who are 29th at 11.3%, have lost 11 of 16 games this season.

Here's a look at what's wrong:

• Successful power plays can be the result of gorgeous passing and pinpoint one-timers. But more often than not, goals come off rebounds or tips.

Hawks shooters are trying to be too precise, picking corners instead of firing on net and creating chaos.

"It's so funny how when you struggle you forget how effective those plays are," said forward Nick Foligno. "You want the bing, bang, backdoor, tap-in off-the-water-bottle goals. Those are for when you're really feeling it.

"The good power plays - a lot of their goals are ugly. And then even the ugly ones look pretty, like, 'Oh, wow, that guy was wide open.' "

• Not only are the Hawks picking corners, but they're not shooting enough. Why?


Players fear their one shot will result in a rebound that goes to a penalty killer and gets cleared down ice. Now you're chasing and forced to re-enter the zone.

This mentality can seep into struggling power plays like a plague.

"One hundred percent," Foligno said. "Because the confidence isn't there of, 'We're gonna get it back' or 'The other guy's gonna do his job.'

"It's, 'I gotta hold onto it. I gotta make a move.'

"No. Trust everybody."

• Speaking of holding onto the puck, that's another issue. The power play impressed in the preseason because the Hawks quickly moved the puck around the zone. Zip, zap, zip, zap, zip, zap.

No thinking. No standing still.

Just quick, on-time passes.

That decisiveness all but vanished when the regular season began.

"(Slowing it down) for a penalty killer is a dream," Foligno said. "Now I can get in a lane and slow down a little bit. Whereas if the puck's zipping, I don't know which way it's gonna go. That's why Tampa's so effective. That's why Boston has a great power play. ...

"When you're confident, it's zip, zip. I see the play before it comes to me."

• Finally, the Hawks are still getting to know each other's tendencies. Those things take time. As an example, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin didn't click right away either, with Panarin finally scoring a PP goal in his 38th game in 2015-16.

It's a similar situation now, with Bedard, Foligno, Perry, Hall and Korchinski all new to Chicago. Even Reichel was only around for 23 games last season.

"It's hard. You want results right now," Foligno said. "We're only 16 games into it with a really new team here. We've got to remind ourselves of that, but also not fall into the trap of, 'It's OK.'

"Because it's not. We've got to get better and climb out of this hole tomorrow."

By the numbers

<b>Top 5 power-play units</b>Team PPG/chances Pct.

1. New Jersey 23-for-59 39.0

2. NY Rangers 17-for-52 32.7

3. Vancouver 22-for-71 31.0

4. Tampa Bay 20-for-66 30.3

5. Toronto 15-for-51 29.4

<b>Bottom 5 power-play units</b>Team PPG/chances Pct.

28. Philadelphia 7-for-61 11.5

29. HAWKS 6-for-53 11.3

30. Columbus 6-for-61 9.8

31. St. Louis 4-for-52 7.7

32. Washington 3-for-43 7.0

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