After four games between the Blackhawks and Red Wings, the Red Wings lead 3-1. Both teams had identical 4-1 wins in the first two games. The Red Wings have managed to get enough offense in the two games in Detroit and stifle the Blackhawks offense.
Both teams possess identical styles and it seems to reason that eventually the games are going to be really close. The difference could come down to special teams. Both teams have been pretty similar on special teams so far this series.
There have been no problems on the penalty kill for either team. It is the power play where both teams have struggled. It seems unlikely that both teams will continue to fail to score on the power play.
In close games the difference will most likely come down to execution on the power play. Game 4 was an example of this as the Red Wings scored their first power play goal of the series in Game 4 which was the game winner. That ended a streak of 29 consecutive successful penalty kills to start the playoffs.
Detroit has Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on the power play. They went 6 for 25 on the power play in the first round. There is so much offensive star power and it’s unlikely they will be contained for the rest of the series.
It hasn’t been a pretty series for the Hawks so far. They’re 1 for 12 on the power play. That one goal came on the first power play of the series. Since then the Hawks have been 0 for 11 in the last eleven periods.
There have been many problems for the Hawks. It starts with not getting clean entries into the zone. The end of Game 4 highlighted the struggles of the power play as the Hawks had a power play in the final five minutes where they got no shots on goal and could not get the puck into the zone. The Hawks had the same thing happen at the end of game when they pulled Corey Crawford as they could not get the puck in the zone.
If the Hawks are not getting into the zone, they are unable to set up their power play. So there are two options for the Hawks. Either they are going to have to take the puck in the zone and pass to the side right away or they commit to dumping the puck in and chasing it.
When the Blackhawks are in the zone they need to be willing to get dirty. They need to get right in the grill of Jimmy Howard and make life difficult for him. Too many times have the Hawks stood to the side allowing Howard free looks at pucks. Don’t be afraid to create havoc around the crease. Havoc is good and it creates chaos which creates goals.
The last thing the Blackhawks can change are the power play units. Right now, the Hawks have all four of their stars on one power play line. With Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp on the same line, it leaves the second line bare.
An ideal scenario would be for the Hawks to split up the four into two lines with two on each. You could keep lines together and have Toews and Hossa on one line with Kane and Sharp on the other one. Or you could put Kane, Sharp and Toews together while leaving Hossa on the second unit.
But the Hawks really need to get secondary contributions on the power play as well. They could use Andrew Shaw, Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland to help create some offense.
In addition, the Hawks have gotten nothing from their defense since Game 1. It is important to get shots on the net from Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Nick Leddy on the power play. Seabrook probably has the hardest shot on the Blackhawks and it has been nonexistent during the series.
When you are facing a 3-1 series deficit your power play needs to make the most of its chances. That doesn’t mean you need to score all the time. A good power play needs to create momentum. There is no carry over effect from the Hawks power play. In fact, Detroit seems to come out and dominate play for long stretches after a Blackhawks power play.
With an elimination game looming, there isn’t much time for the Blackhawks to figure it out. But if there is any time for a power play that struggles all the time even with loads of star power, this is the time. If the outage continues on the power play, it will be lights out for the Blackhawks season.