Would practicing for OT help Hawks to win more games?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg scores the game-winning goal OT against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night as goaltender Collin Delia (60) and defenseman Erik Gustafsson watch. The Blackhawks are just 5-7 in overtime this season and just 3-7 after opening the campaign with back-to-back victories at Ottawa and St. Louis. With standings points at such a premium, John Dietz wonders why the Hawks don't practice this pivotal -- and still relatively new -- part of the game.

    Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg scores the game-winning goal OT against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night as goaltender Collin Delia (60) and defenseman Erik Gustafsson watch. The Blackhawks are just 5-7 in overtime this season and just 3-7 after opening the campaign with back-to-back victories at Ottawa and St. Louis. With standings points at such a premium, John Dietz wonders why the Hawks don't practice this pivotal -- and still relatively new -- part of the game. Associated Press

 
 

When the phenomenon that is 3-on-3 overtime was introduced in the NHL four seasons ago, coaches did everything they could to prepare for a style of hockey that is fast, furious and completely unpredictable.

Practices sometimes ended with mini 3-on-3 games and preseason games in 2015 even featured an automatic five-minute overtime session regardless of the score.

As time has gone on, though, teams are spending precious little time practicing this important phase of the game.

With everything coaches want to work on, it's understandable to a degree. But with 3-on-3 still so new and every standings point so precious, you wonder why coaches don't throw in a simulated OT every now and then.

The Blackhawks, who lost to Nashville 4-3 in overtime at the United Center on Wednesday, have seen 13 of their 46 games go to extra time. They are 5-7 when the contest doesn't go to a shootout (2-4 since Jeremy Colliton took over as coach).

That's far from the worst winning percentage in the league, but imagine if they'd won just three more games in OT. Closing the 7-point gap between them and the Wild (which holds the final wild-card spot) and beating out teams like Anaheim, Edmonton and Vancouver would seem much more doable.

In their last four OT defeats, opponents have scored the game-winning goal against the Hawks in under two minutes.

The Hawks held an optional practice Thursday at MB Ice Arena and did do some 3-on-3 work with two nets set up in one zone. Colliton hinted that a more intense version may be coming, possibly at practice Friday as the Hawks prepare to host Vegas on Saturday.

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If goalie Collin Delia could give Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Erik Gustafsson and others a piece of advice, it would simply be this: Shoot early and often.

"(Guys are) looking for the perfect shot," Delia said. "I think we did 3-on-3 in training camp last year and there was so many times guys could have shot it and I was like, 'What's going on here?' ...

"My opinion is you should take as many shots as possible because on the rebounds, people aren't as close to the puck. So they have to work as hard as you (to get it back) if you shoot it."

A good example came when the Islanders beat the Hawks 3-2 on Jan. 3. David Toews one-timed a shot, which Delia saved, but the puck bounced right back to Toews and he buried it for the game-winner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Toews' initial blast was a high-grade chance, but Delia was adamant that there's nothing wrong with throwing all kinds of shots on net.

"Take a shot that the goalie's not going to be able to control," he said. "If you're going to shoot and you think it's a low-percentage shot, throw it at the pad or (just) off the ice. Don't put it in his hands or his body. Some of the best shots are ones where you don't intend to score."

Power up:

During coach Jeremy Colliton's first 20 games at Blackhawks' coach, the power play went an abysmal 5-for-55. Over the last 11 games, though, the Hawks are 11-for-32. That 34.4-percent success rate ranks third in the NHL since Dec. 18 behind only Pittsburgh (34.5) and Boston (38.7).

"We're retrieving a lot of pucks," said Alex DeBrincat after scoring on the power play in a 4-3 OT loss to Nashville on Wednesday. "Once we lose it we're getting it back and that creates chances. That's a big part of it, and we're moving it around pretty well."

Colliton has also loaded up his top unit with DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson. During this 11-game run, 3 of Kane's 9 goals and 5 of his 11 assists have come on the power play. DeBrincat (4 goals), Gustafsson (7 points) and Toews (5 assists) have also benefitted from the unit's proficiency.

Slap shots:

Jeremy Colliton said Gustav Forsling's return from an upper-torso injury isn't "imminent" but he also doesn't believe it's "super-long term." … Erik Gustafsson extended his assist streak to seven games against Nashville on Wednesday. It is the longest streak by a Blackhawks defenseman since Duncan Keith's eight-game run from Nov. 11-Dec. 3, 2013. … By scoring his 20th goal of the season vs. the Flames on Monday, Alex DeBrincat became the eighth Blackhawks player to start his career with back-to-back 20-goal seasons.

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