Blackhawks go back to school on power play
After the main portion of practice ended Tuesday, some of the Blackhawks set up at one end of the ice and found assistant coach Kevin Dineen running a class we'll call Power Play 101.
Dineen's students were Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza, Artem Anisimov and Brent Seabrook, and they began by running new plays in an effort to snap the Hawks' 0-for-16 drought with the man advantage.
After that, the six men gathered at one end of the rink and bounced ideas off one another for more than 10 minutes.
"Some healthy discussion," Kane said. "Just some new ideas. Maybe get some different looks and create opportunities."
One play involved starting Seabrook at the point, and then sliding him to the slot after the puck was worked down low. Seabrook connected on back-to-back blasts during the drill, although they were running it with no penalty-kill unit on the ice.
Almost unbelievably, the play paid instant dividends against Toronto on Wednesday as Seabrook connected from the right slot 5:29 into the game to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. He scored 11 seconds after Tyler Bozak was called for slashing.
"Seabs hits it probably harder than anybody," Quenneville said Tuesday. "That gives us more of a shot mentality."
The Hawks went 2-for-4 on the power play in their 3-2 overtime loss the Leafs, with Nick Schmaltz also connecting at 7:55 of the third period.
It wasn't just the previous five games where the power play had failed -- it's been all season. The Hawks' conversion rate was just 14.9 percent, 29th in the league heading into Wednesday's games and the worst percentage in Joel Quenneville's tenure as coach.
There are plenty of reasons why things haven't clicked, but chief among them are:
• The loss of Artemi Panarin's wicked one-timer. Panarin had a combined 17 power-play goals the last two seasons.
• The lack of production from Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook. They have a combined 2 PP goals all season.
• Plenty of new faces. Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman, Alex DeBrincat, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling and Anthony Duclair have all had time in varying degrees but with little success.
• Being too cute. The Hawks always seem to look for the perfect shot and turn it over before it appears. On occasion, a better option would be to fire the puck on net shortly after entering the offensive zone.
A good example came in the first period Monday against Tampa Bay when Anisimov had nobody in front of him and could have fired from about 25-30 feet away. Instead, the big center sent the puck back to the point where a shot was taken but blocked in traffic.
"If we've got a chance to score off the rush before teams get in their structure, go for it," said Nick Schmaltz. "You never want to just set it up. If you've got an opportunity to score when you're coming in the zone, we're all for that."
If the Hawks had just 5-6 more conversions this season at key parts of games, they could easily have 5-6 more victories and talk of missing the playoffs would be nonexistent.
Instead, panic has set in all across Chicago.
"It's something we're discussing every day, trying to figure out and trying to work on," Kane said. "We definitely have to improve in that area."
Coach Joel Quenneville said Corey Crawford might join the Blackhawks on their road trip after the All-Star Game. The trip begins at Nashville on Jan. 30 and continues in Vancouver on Feb. 1 and Calgary on Feb. 3.
Don't expect to see Crawford in any of those games, however.
"Playing might be a little distant," Quenneville said.
Crawford has missed 12 games with an upper-body injury. He last played at New Jersey on Dec. 23.
Defenseman Gustav Forsling, who scored and had 8 shots on goal, was the No. 1 star after Rockford's 4-1 victory over Bakersfield on Tuesday. Forsling was assigned to Rockford on Sunday. Tanner Kero also scored. It was his sixth goal in the last eight games.