Is Chicago’s power play still a big concern?

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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.”

Considering context

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.*

2013

League avg. 18.22 (PP); 81.78 (PK)
CHI: 16.67 (PP); 87.23 (PK) +7 special teams

2011-12

League avg. 17.31 (PP); 82.69 (PK)
CHI: 15.16 (PP); 78.11 (PK) -9 special teams

2010-11

League avg. 18.02 (PP); 81.98 (PK)
CHI: 23.10 (PP); 79.22 (PK) +11 special teams

2009-10

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.

More Blackhawks day on PHT:

Pirri leads list of ‘Hawks prospects to watch

Second-line center spot up for grabs in Chicago

Crawford’s cloudy future

Is a hangover coming?

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.