Blackhawks need special teams to improve vs. Kings
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup with a lagging power play before, but if they have any chance of defending their 2013 championship they must fix a broken unit in the Western Conference Final.
The Blackhawks, who've lost three straight games and trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, have allowed five power-play goals on 10 man-advantage opportunities for the Kings.
The 50-percent success rate is stunning heading into Game 5 on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), considering the Blackhawks led the NHL postseason in killing penalties at 91.3 percent through the first two rounds, allowing four goals on 46 power plays.
"They've made a couple of nice shots," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday after arriving at O'Hare International Airport. "[They've gotten] some looks here and we've got to recognize the chance, when there's a chance to be aggressive, and make it a little more disruptive for them when there's a chance to pressure [shooters]."
One of those opportunities went by the wayside and led to the first of two Kings power-play goals in the first period of their 5-2 victory in Game 4 on Monday at Staples Center. The goals helped the Kings build a 3-0 lead, but Jake Muzzin's opening goal was particularly vexing.
Blackhawks forwards Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were knocked to the ice after contact with Kings in the offensive zone, and Muzzin got the puck and walked right down the slot with it before firing a wrist shot into the upper right corner. Parked in front of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was Kings center Jeff Carter, and in front of him were two Chicago defensemen, including Brent Seabrook, who appeared to get caught flat-footed in the low slot.
The second power-play goal in Game 4 came as the result of Kings forward Dustin Brown being left unchecked at the back side of the net for an easy tap-in goal to make it 3-0.
"Their shots are going through," Quenneville said. "The second power-play goal [Monday] is a play that, it goes through us [in] a couple of lanes. The first one was kind of comparable to the one we saw [in another game] … coming down the gut, we've got to go out to that guy [Muzzin]. I think that was the tough part about it. We just saw that one and they came back with another one. I think that was a defendable play."
Seabrook accepted responsibility for his errors on each goal.
"They've got a good power play," Seabrook said. "They do things well and we've been looking at things all series. I think [there've] been a few mistakes. I think [Monday] night in the first period was non-characteristic by our team. I've got to be better. I was out there for both of those goals. I've got to be better in those situations to help out [Crawford], help out everybody out on the ice and we have to get the job done. That's a big part of the series."
Nearly as big is the ineptitude of the Blackhawks power play, not only in this series but for the entire postseason. Chicago is 8-for-46 in the playoffs (17.4 percent), but the splits between home ice and the road are polar opposites.
At home, the Blackhawks are the top percentage team on the power play with seven goals in 22 chances (31.8 percent). Away from United Center, they've scored one goal in 24 power plays, which ranks last in the League at 4.2 percent, including 0-for-7 in the past two games at Staples Center.
How can Chicago spark the power play Wednesday?
"Um … shots," Seabrook said. "You know, we've got to get stuff at the net and I think that's the biggest key. We haven't had a lot of shots in the series on our power play, especially on the road. We've got to come in with better possession and if we're not being able to cross the line, we've got to do different things to be able to get possession and try to get good looks."
That's easier said than done against the Kings, which is why the world "simple" cropped back up Tuesday with the Blackhawks.
"Sometimes trying to make that extra play or the pretty play isn't going to work against these guys," Seabrook said. "We've got to find a way to get pucks to the net, get guys in front and bang it in, ugly goals. We start doing that and things might start changing."