For all the accolades the Chicago Blackhawks collected in their 2013 Stanley Cup run, one unit that rarely wowed people was the power play.
On paper, Chicago’s man advantage should blister any and all opponents, yet that group faced persistent questions.
Then again, maybe it’s a matter of perspective. As GM Stan Bowman hinted at during the team’s convention in late July, the team’s staunch penalty kill should ease at least some of those concerns (via ESPN).
“Special teams is always important,” Bowman said. “I think we had a great penalty kill last year really from beginning to end. I think our power play is the one area where we had spurts where it was very successful. I think we’d like to get that like the penalty kill, to have that to be a dominant force.”
It’s fine to question the PP, but do note these factors:
- The Blackhawks power play – at least percentage wise – has been below the league average mark quite a bit lately.
- Conversely, their penalty kill has been well above average.
- Most importantly: they’ve scored more power play goals than they’ve allowed three of the last four seasons.
Here’s a quick study of Chicago’s special teams in relation to the rest of the NHL in the last four seasons.*
League avg. 18.22 (PP); 81.78 (PK)
CHI: 16.67 (PP); 87.23 (PK) +7 special teams
League avg. 17.31 (PP); 82.69 (PK)
CHI: 15.16 (PP); 78.11 (PK) -9 special teams
League avg. 18.02 (PP); 81.98 (PK)
CHI: 23.10 (PP); 79.22 (PK) +11 special teams
League avg. 18.23 (PP); 81.77 (PK)
CHI: 17.69 (PP); 84.96 (PK) +12 special teams
Changing the conversation
As you can see, the special teams picture looks prettier when you consider a mostly effective PK. After all, if you had to choose, wouldn’t you rather have an elite penalty kill?
(Especially with a team that’s regularly dominant at even-strength.)
There’s no doubt that the Blackhawks would benefit from scoring more regularly on the man advantage. Still, when you consider that their highest mark (an astounding 23.1 percent efficiency in 2010-11) came in the worst of the four seasons in question, it’s clear that context matters.
Then again, maybe the Blackhawks just really miss Brian Campbell.
* – Special teams plus/minus refers to power-play goals scored minus allowed in this case. If you’re wondering, Chicago scored far more shorthanded goals than they allowed during the past four seasons.
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