With all the dynamic firepower in the Chicago lineup, it makes little sense that the ‘Hawks finished at 15.2 percent this year — 26th in the NHL.
Armchair pundits have spent countless hours trying to solve the slumping man advantage, and one theory in particular always seems to get mentioned:
What if the ‘Hawks just loaded up the first unit?
Yesterday, Joel Quenneville got on board.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Quenneville stockpiled the No. 1 unit at Monday’s practice, with forwards Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews joining defenseman Brent Seabrook. Those players combined to score 27 of the Hawks’ 42 goals with a man advantage this season — the only real offensive threat not on the No. 1 unit was Duncan Keith.
The ‘Hawks realize that if they’re going to put some pucks past white-hot Coyotes goalie Mike Smith in the opening playoff round, they’ll need to do it with the man advantage. It’s likely that Sharp would play one of the points alongside Seabrook, allowing the trio of Toews-Kane-Hossa to do their thing down low.
“Having Jonathan back, it gives a new look,” said Hossa, who led Chicago with nine PPG this season. “We have to work hard and have somebody in front of the net otherwise it doesn’t matter who we have on the power play. It won’t work if you have a goalie like Smith in the net.
“We want to make sure we have traffic and keep shooting the puck maybe from the beginning.”
There have been times this season when Chicago deployed a more balanced approach when it came to the first and second units — but that appears to have gone out the window. The second unit during Monday’s practice was forwards Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Brunette along with defensemen Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya.
When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.
With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).
As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.
Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.
You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.
Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.
“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?
Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.
Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.
It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.
Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.
On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?
It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?
* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.