What's the solution for Hawks' struggling power play?

  • Chicago Blackhawks interim head coach Derek King, top, talks to his team during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. The Sharks won 2-0.

    Chicago Blackhawks interim head coach Derek King, top, talks to his team during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. The Sharks won 2-0.

 
 
Updated 12/1/2021 7:05 PM

No team is struggling more than the Blackhawks on the power play over the last month.

So it was hardly a surprise that the Hawks spent the majority of their practice time trying to find solutions Wednesday at Fifth Third Arena.

 

What was a surprise is how the Hawks split up the units, sticking their top scorer in Alex DeBrincat (12 goals) on PP2. The top unit, which consisted of Patrick Kane (6 goals), Kirby Dach (3), Dylan Strome (1), Jonathan Toews (0) and Erik Gustafsson (0), has just 10 goals combined.

This may be a classic case of overthinking things, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens on the Hawks' upcoming three-game road trip against Washington, the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders.

Interim coach Derek King spoke before practice, so reporters were not able to ask about the strange move with DeBrincat.

King did talk about how he wants everyone to have more of a shooting mentality and to stop looking for the "perfect tap in or the perfect play."

"You (need) to dumb it down a little bit -- (have a) less-is-more mentality and put pucks to the net," King said.

Since Nov. 3, the Hawks are an abysmal 1-for-30 on the power play. That 3.3% success rate ranks dead last behind the Islanders (3.5%), Jets (8.3%), Flyers (8.3%) and Wild (10.0%).

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The Hawks' inability to win PP faceoffs is a big reason for the struggles. Since Nov. 3, only Minnesota (44.4) and Detroit (42.6) are worse than the Hawks' 44.9%. Twenty-one teams have won at least 50%, and 10 of those are above 55%. Boston (70%) and Nashville (66.7%) lead the way.

It goes without saying that winning draws goes a long way toward having a successful power play. The ones you lose often end up costing 20-30 seconds as you retrieve the puck and attempt to re-enter the offensive zone.

Kane, Toews, Dach, Strome and Gustafsson spent extra time before and after practice working together. There were no penalty killers or a goalie to give resistance, just the five of them passing and shooting.

In most cases they tossed just 2-3 passes to each other, then fired the puck on net.

This is exactly what King wants. Now the question is, will they actually adopt that mentality over the next few days?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's simple for a coach to talk about it that way," King said. "It's a mindset, right? And these guys take pride in it. This is where they pick up some of their points and this is what they do; they have to put points on the board for us to have success.

"So they take pride in that (and) start thinking a little too much. My job is to get them to not think and just to go play."

Joining DeBrincat on the second unit were Dominik Kubalik, Brandon Hagel, Henrik Borgstrom and defenseman Seth Jones. Those five have combined for 25 goals.

Injury updates

Calvin de Haan (lower back) did not practice for the second straight day Wednesday, but he did go on the Hawks' three-game road trip. ... Forward Tyler Johnson (neck) "is still getting looked at," according to King. "He's not any closer. Hopefully we'll get some good news when we get back from the trip." Johnson has not played since Oct. 29.

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