Hawks power play since mid-December is second to none

 
 
Updated 1/23/2019 6:51 PM
hello
                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane celebrates his power play goal against the Washington Capitals during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Chicago.

    Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane celebrates his power play goal against the Washington Capitals during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Chicago. Associated Press

  • The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, here scoring in Tuesday's shootout win over the Islanders, said there are plenty of reasons the team's power play has been a league-best 39.6 percent since Dec. 18: "We're not forcing anything. We're doing a good job of wearing teams down and then eventually the plays work out. It's nice for us to be able to make a big difference for our team right now."

    The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, here scoring in Tuesday's shootout win over the Islanders, said there are plenty of reasons the team's power play has been a league-best 39.6 percent since Dec. 18: "We're not forcing anything. We're doing a good job of wearing teams down and then eventually the plays work out. It's nice for us to be able to make a big difference for our team right now." Associated Press

From exasperating to thrilling. From ice cold to en fuego. From pathetic to stunning.

That pretty much sums up the Blackhawks' power play over two very bizarre segments of this season.

During the first 35 games, the Hawks' PP units were completely inept, going a league-worst 12-for-105.

But it wasn't just the numbers.

It was the fact their entries were abysmal, they failed to get off many decent shot attempts and rarely retrieved loose pucks.

"For a long time, it was not a great feeling," Jonathan Toews said after the Hawks' 3-2 shootout victory over the Islanders Tuesday.

Now, the feeling is completely different as the Hawks have scored a power-play goal in nine straight games and are a ridiculous 19-for-48 over their last 16 games. That 39.6-percent success rate is far and away the best in the league since Dec. 18, with second-place Pittsburgh almost 8 percentage points behind.

"Well, we got our confidence," Toews said. "We're relaxed."

Toews said no major changes have been made systematically, although there does seem to be more movement once players get set up in the offensive zone.

So why are the Hawks dominating this phase right now? A few reasons:

• Coach Jeremy Colliton isn't afraid to play his top unit of Toews, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and defenseman Erik Gustafsson for 75 to 80 percent of the time. It's a combination loaded with high-end goal scorers, so why not leave them out there?

• Kane and DeBrincat have developed some wicked chemistry on their cross-ice passes. DeBrincat, who has 6 PP goals during this hot streak, has fired home numerous one-timers.

• Gustafsson's ability to run the point. The offensively gifted D man has done a fantastic job distributing the puck and knowing when to sprint to the boards to keep it in the zone. "Gus up top makes a big difference," Colliton said.

Things are clicking so well that even when something goes wrong -- like when Toews' stick snapped during a 5-on-3 vs. the Islanders -- the Hawks are able to capitalize.

As Toews retreated to the bench, Strome took a pass from Kane and fired it past Robin Lehner to tie the game at 1-1 at 6:05 of the second period. Seconds earlier, Strome whacked the puck away from Lehner just as the Isles' goalie was set to cover it up to force a stoppage.

"(He) wasn't too happy because I kind of jammed it out of him," Strome said. "He saved Brinksy's shot and then it was kind of just sitting there, so I kind of just banged it out. Then Tazer's stick broke, and luckily enough, there was kind of an opening when I got it back from Kaner, and (I) just walked to the net."

Toews also scored on the power play when he batted a rebound out of midair past Lehner with 22 seconds left in the second period.

"We're not forcing anything," said Toews, who has 22 goals on the season, 12 away from his career high. "We're doing a good job of wearing teams down and then eventually the plays work out. It's nice for us to be able to make a big difference for our team right now.

"For a long time it was not a great feeling. When we went on the power play it was almost taking the wind out of our sails. … It's huge for us to turn that around."

Said Strome: "Every time we go out there we feel like we're going to score, so definitely our confidence is high and hopefully we can keep it up after the break."

Indeed, the All-Star Game and bye week may not be coming at a great time. We'll see if nine days off cools down this unit -- or if the Hawks extend their goal-scoring streak to 10 straight games when they play at Buffalo Feb. 1.

Either way, it's been a heck of a ride.

"It's fun. Fun to watch," Colliton said. "They're making great reads, being clean with the puck, making great decisions, and we've got some guys who are pretty skilled. So credit to them."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.