Chicago Blackhawks Power Play: The Key To Second Round Victory

By Chris Schubert

It is here everybody. Tonight marks the beginning of a second round match-up between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild.

This is a familiar feeling for both teams, as the two have squared off for three straight years now in the playoffs. For the Blackhawks, the previous two encounters went pretty will with the Hawks’ advancing to the next round both years.

2015 sees two different teams squaring off though. Previous issues for the Blackhawks have been mentioned at length, with shot suppression being the major issue plaguing this current Hawks’ unit. On the other bench, this Wild team led by Mike Yeo is back and better than ever. More experience, more depth and arguably the hottest goaltender on the planet provides a recipe for a fantastic meeting between these two Central division foes.

With the Hawks’ having taken a step back this season and the Wild better than a year ago, there are some major challenges ahead for the Hawks’. One can point to beating Devan Dubnyk as priority numero uno. Since being acquired by the Wild , Dubnyk has been the key to the Wild’s sustained success and how they were able to dispatch of the St. Louis Blues.

The Blackhawks, with all of their own issues, provide a much bigger challenge to Dubnyk than the Blues did. The Hawks’ are a deeper, more star heavy team that can strike at a moments notice. The power-play is the biggest concern, and key, standing in the way of the Blackhawks moving on to the Western Conference Final.

Entering the series tonight, the Hawks’ are sporting a sexy looking 15.8 % on the power play. For comparison’s sake, the Wild enter with a 33.3% conversation ratio. All numbers aside, just by watching the Hawks’ power-play it is clear that something isn’t work. One could point to not having a true quarterback (enter Nick Leddy’s name here) to facilitate operations when on the man advantage.  The movement has been better, with the Hawks’ getting the needed traffic in front, and putting more pucks on the net.

But in the Nashville series, the Hawks’ forwards were collapsed on, and that forced turnovers. The Nashville penalty killers were easily able to clear the zone once that pressure was applied. This Wild team has that same capability, but are even more deadly.  With a guy like Zack Parise a part of the penalty kill, the Wild have the speed and skill to be able to turn those turnovers into short-handed opportunities and the Hawks’ just can’t give away goals like that.

The Hawks’ need to mix up their entries. They like to carry the puck in and then set up, that is a given. When the Wild know that, they can attack at the blue-line and put the Hawks’ forwards under a ton of pressure. Dumping in and retrieval of pucks could be the difference. It doesn’t need to be done every time (and doing it every time doesn’t favor the Hawks’ , who don’t have a ton of size to retrieve constantly), but just enough to force the Wild PK unit to give the Hawks’ a little space.

It’s that little space that could be the difference between the Hawks’ winning and losing this series. That’s how close these two teams are. Getting the PP going is the Hawks’ key to victory. That starts tonight.