By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) It’s a familiar concern for the Chicago Blackhawks. Especially in the playoffs.
Power play production is missing.
Since scoring on their first power play of their series with the Red Wings, the Blackhawks have gone 0-for-8 since and haven’t had many quality chances.
So with the Blackhawks down 2-1 in the series with the Wings, it came as no surprise Wednesday when head coach Joel Quenneville shook up the power play lines and inserted Bryan Bickell in front of the net on the top power play unit.
“I’m excited,” Bickell said after practice. “Our power play has been struggling as of late. I think we’re just emphasizing getting the puck on net. You see goals around the league on the power play, they haven’t been the tic-tac-toe, empty net. They’ve been the greasy ones, we call it. We’re just looking to get some power play time and get something going.”
The Blackhawks were happy with their pace and intensity in their Game 3 loss to the Red Wings, but they’ve still struggled to find the back of the net. They drew iron three times and had a goal taken away by the refs. At this point, they just need to score goals in Game 4 in Detroit, no matter how ugly they might be.
“There were chances around the net,” Quenneville said. “I still think the quality is going to come from the traffic and the second opportunity. It doesn’t have to be a pretty goal against this team because they have been checking well. So you just have to be determined in those areas. If one or two slide through, that’s what you have to look for. But the pretty goals aren’t going to be there.”
That’s exactly why Quenneville decided to balance out his power play units a little bit. His previous top group of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith might have been one of the most talented power play units, but that’s not an ideal group to come up with the ugly goals. Hossa, Sharp and Keith are now joined on the top unit by Bickell and Brandon Saad, while Toews and Kane slid down to the second unit Wednesday. It’s still a little unclear how the second group will shape up as Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival, Nick Leddy and Dave Bolland all got some time there at Wednesday’s practice, but Andrew Shaw will be the man in front of the net.
Meanwhile, it appears Patrick Sharp could stay on the top line in even-strength situations. He saw some time there with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in Game 3 and that’s where he remained in Wednesday’s practice with Brandon Saad moving down to the second line. There were no changes to the third or fourth lines or the defensive pairings.
Quenneville would not confirm if that’s how the lines would look in Game 4, but he’s evaluating everything as his team faces the most adversity it has seen all season.
“I think all year long we’ve been in a very favorable position,” Quenneville said. “I don’t think we’ve been against it in any areas as far as many stretches in games being down, and definitely in a series we haven’t been down. So it’s a great test for us. It’s a good challenge for us. The adversity we’re in right now, we have to find a way to overcome it. It will be a good challenge at the end of the day to find out about everybody.”
For more coverage of the Blackhawks throughout the season, follow Adam on Twitter (@AdamHoge).