Blackhawks: Why has Chicago’s power play been so effective?

Philipp Kurashev, Chicago Blackhawks Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Philipp Kurashev, Chicago Blackhawks Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Chicago Blackhawks‘ 2021 season has seen its fair share of struggles, one aspect has been on absolute fire since the first puck drop: the power play. After years of disappointment on the man advantage, the ‘Hawks have scored on the power play in almost every game this season. They currently have the fifth-best man-advantage unit in the NHL at 34.4 percent, with 11 goals scored on 32 opportunities.

This is quite the change, as Chicago’s power play has been largely unsuccessful the past few seasons. Even in their 2015 Stanley Cup-winning season, the ‘Hawks only had the 20th best power play, and in their dominant 2013 championship run, they finished 19th. The last time they were in the top half of the NHL’s power-play units was in 2016. So how have they improved it so much?

Part of the problem in previous years can possibly be chalked up to a number of factors. When former assistant coach Mike Kitchen led the ‘Hawks power play, the man-advantage unit often seemed hesitant to shoot the puck in the offensive zone, instead sometimes trying to look for the pretty pass across for an open net, and holding onto the puck for way too long.

While these goals are usually tap-ins when they work, other teams would often be able to anticipate this and quickly clear the zone, not allowing Chicago to have any sustained offensive pressure. This season, it seems like the team is more willing to move the puck around for a good shot, allowing for snipes on the power play like the one Alex DeBrincat scored a few weeks ago against Florida:

The Chicago Blackhawks’ power play has been a nice surprise during a tough season thus far.

Another issue that seems to have been fixed this season is the power play set up in the zone. The team spent a good chunk of time last year trying a 1-3-1 breakout on the man-advantage. This never really ended up working for them, and it rarely ever ended up generating a significant scoring chance.

Chicago has seemed to abandon that this season in favor of a more aggressive approach, and it seems to be working well in their favor. Their man-advantage should only get better now that DeBrincat has returned from his COVID-19 protocol absence. He should help a power play that is firing on all cylinders.

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The Blackhawks will soon get another chance to try and continue their red-hot power play. Their second game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes is tomorrow, with the puck drop at 7 p.m. CST.