Late into the 2009-10 regular season, I took a look at one of my simple stats: special teams plus/minus. At that point in the season, the Chicago Blackhawks ranked as the second best team in that area (scoring 18 more special teams goals than they allowed) while the Philadelphia Flyers took seventh place.
The Blackhawks should be pleased that they have a 2-1 series lead because their normally stout special teams is become a big “minus” so far. NHL.com points out the growing disparity between the two teams’ specialty units.
That changed Wednesday in Game 3, when the power play went 0-for-3 and the penalty killers allowed two goals on three chances during the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime loss at the Wachovia Center. For the series, the Blackhawks are 0-for-6 on the power play and have allowed the Flyers to score four times in 10 chances with the extra man.
To be fair, Dave Bolland did score a significant shorthanded goal in Game 1. No doubt about it, though, the Blackhawks need to get more out of their powerplay and should also do more to limit the Flyers’ success.
The really glaring thing, for me, is the lack of powerplays for Chicago. To start the series, Chicago surprisingly didn’t get a single chance on the PP. Since then they’ve only averaged a single PP opportunity per period and overall average 2 PPs per game. Sometimes powerplay success is about the quantity of the chances you receive and the rhythm you can create while on the man advantage.
After two tough games, Chicago’s two biggest offensive weapons (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) finally broke free and created some offense. Perhaps the Blackhawks can get over the powerplay hump in Game 4, then? Either way, the Flyers are sticking with this series by being resourceful and creating timely offense.
Sooner or later, the Blackhawks are going to need to get their special teams in order or their near-50 year wait to raise the Cup again will need to continue.