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Blackhawks switch PP personnel, searching for shots

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Still searching for answers to a stagnant power play, the Chicago Blackhawks made a couple of tweaks at practice Friday morning at United Center.

Coach Joel Quenneville shifted a few players into different positions, but the biggest change the Blackhawks could make sounds much simpler: shoot the puck more often. The Blackhawks put three shots on goal during three fruitless power plays during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, including one shot against Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask during 1:17 of 5-on-3 play.

The Blackhawks, who won 4-3 in triple overtime, saw their conversion percentage on the man-advantage in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs drop to 13 percent (7-for-67).

Heading into Game 2 Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), the question becomes, how do they fix it?

“I think it’s just playing it smart,” Chicago center Dave Bolland said. “For us, it’s keeping it simple. It’s not making the pretty play. It’s not trying to make that extra, pretty move. It’s just keeping it simple, getting bodies to the net and getting pucks to the net. Those are the main things about having a successful power play.”

The Blackhawks have said that all season, yet they’ve struggled to score on power plays for most of it. At times, they’ve had momentum flip on them entirely in the other team’s favor, leading to game-changing goals for the opposition.

Is the ability to put more shots on goal during power plays easier said than done?

“For sure, yeah [it is],” Bolland said. “I’m bad for it as well. We all want to make that pretty play to see that pretty goal, right? And, for sure, sometimes instead of looking for that pretty drop pass it’s just putting it on net and getting bodies to the net. Those are the main things.”

Sounds easy enough, but when you factor in the opposing team’s penalty-killing effort, which usually ratchets up the deeper teams advance in the playoffs, you can start to see why teams often fall into that search for the perfect shot.

Chicago’s power play has struggled to convert this season against far less successful penalty-killing teams than the Bruins, who have killed off 87.3 percent of the 55 playoff situations in which they were down a skater or two. Boston not only sells out to block shots, but has Rask in net, one of the best goalies in the League.

Getting more pucks through for him to stop really is easier said than done, but the Blackhawks must avoid the trap of passing it around the perimeter too much without pulling the trigger.

“I think it’s a mindset that we have to have, and we’ve talked about those type of things,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I think just having that mindset going into the power play can help, too, thinking ahead of time that we want to have a lot of pucks at the net.”

As for that squandered 5-on-3 in Game 1, Quenneville said the subject has been discussed and dissected, in real time and on video.

“Yeah, we addressed it,” he said. “We looked at it. We addressed it right after that. You never know if you get another one, but certainly we'll see. We weren't pleased with what went on.”

That’s probably the reason for the switch-up at practice, in which Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were split onto separate units. Toews worked with Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa in one group, and Kane was put with Brandon Saad and Bolland on the other.

The point men also were different. Keith and Brent Seabrook worked the points for Toews’ line, and Nick Leddy and Patrick Sharp, who owns one of the best slap shots on the team, manned the points on the other unit.

“There’s a lot of talk about the power play, but it seems like power plays have been tough to score on for not only us, but other teams too,” Keith said. “I mean, we just want to keep it simple, and I think everything can come off getting shots and getting pucks at the net and trying to create off of a shot.”

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