Power play now an asset for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- To call the Chicago Blackhawks a dangerous power-play team may still be a stretch, but they have at least moved into the effective category.

Unlike last season in the playoffs, the Blackhawks have actually been able to somewhat rely on their power play this season, and that’s been essential because their defense hasn’t been as consistent and their penalty kill hasn’t been as dominant.

During the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run last season, they were held without a power-play goal in 16 of 23 games. They scored eight goals on 70 attempts for an 11.4 percentage. They got by without a helpful power play because they killed off 69 of 76 penalties for a 90.8 percentage and held opponents to 2.09 goals a game.

Those numbers haven’t been as strong this season. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has allowed 10 goals on 63 chances for an 84.1 percentage, and they’ve allowed an average of 2.78 goals.

Where the Blackhawks have been able to make up some of the difference has been with their own power play. They have scored a power-play goal in nine of 18 games and have scored 10 goals on 52 chances for a 19.2 percent success rate.

“Power plays are important,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday. “I think it helps your offense, helps your offensive guys have a little bit more patience in the scoring areas. That added time to make an extra play is the difference sometimes in sustaining puck possession and playing at your own end. You always would like your power play to be good, but sometimes whether it’s goalies or the other team’s checking mechanism can slow it down. That always changes. That’s tough to count on that to get the job done game in, game out.”

The Blackhawks haven’t reached Game 7 of the Western Conference finals simply because of their power play, but it has helped. They’re 7-2 in the playoffs this season when they have scored a power-play goal and have a 14-2 record over the last two seasons.

In their current series against the Los Angeles Kings, the Blackhawks are 3-1 when they have scored a power-play goal and 0-2 when they haven’t. The Blackhawks scored a power-play goal in their wins in Game 5 and 6 to even the series at 3-3.

“To score those big power-play goals to go ahead in a game or tie a game is huge,” Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw said Saturday. “I think the guys have been clicking pretty well the last few games. We just got to keep that simple mentality – getting the puck to the net with traffic.

“I do [feel it’s better than last year]. Last year, our penalty kill was lights out. We’re going to need both our special teams to do the same going into Game 7.”