CHICAGO -- Dull. Bland. Boring. Stagnant. Bad. These are all accurate descriptions of the Chicago Blackhawks power play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins. Though the Hawks were able to come away with the 4-3 triple-overtime win, next time they might not be so fortunate.
The rough power play has been a major storyline of the playoffs for the Blackhawks, who had just seven goals on 49 power-play attempts coming into Wednesday night's action. They may be playing one of the most disciplined penalty-killing teams in all of the NHL in the Bruins, but the Blackhawks certainly looked more to blame for their lack of success. Boston didn't necessarily have to do that much.
The Blackhawks were granted three power-play opportunities in the second period, including a sustained two-man advantage for 1:23. They failed to generate a single shot on the 5-on-3 and managed just two total over the course of 4:43 of power-play time. Keep in mind, this is while trailing 2-1 in a game they were beginning to control after falling to a 2-0 deficit.
“We're disappointed with the 5-on-3 [Wednesday] night,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told the press Thursday. “We want to make sure we don't lose the momentum in the game.”
That's essentially what happened in Game 1, as the power plays appeared to suck the life out of Chicago for that stretch of the second period. Though the team recovered to win, it was a remarkable failure at a key point in the game
It shouldn't be surprising that they've struggled this mightily, as Chicago was 19th in the NHL in power-play efficiency during the regular season, but looking down the roster, it's hard to fathom it can be this bland.
While the Blackhawks generated significant zone time, particularly on the two-man advantage, there was very little creativity and barely any movement of the feet. The five players in red jerseys on the ice almost looked stationary. The puck moved from player to player with relative ease, but the Bruins simply held their positions and did their best to clog passing lanes and not allow any shots from the middle of the ice. The Blackhawks couldn't break through with anything of quality.
Though the 5-on-3 was bad, Chicago's third power play might have been its worst.
While Boston was left without its best defenseman and expert penalty killer in Zdeno Chara, who was sent to the box for high-sticking, Chicago generated nothing, barely able to get it into Boston's zone. When they did get down there, it wasn't for long.
Pouring a little salt in the wound, the Bruins' power play, which has also been relatively quiet in these playoffs, scored early in the third period on a Patrice Bergeron one-timer to make it a 3-1 game.
Quenneville knows his team's power play needs to be better.
“Special teams are always critical and they can make the difference,” he said. “Our power play in the last series and [in Game 1] hasn't shown the production it's needed. We're still going to have to rely on it at some point to ignite us, so that's what we're talking about.”
Forward Patrick Kane, a key cog on the Blackhawks' top power-play unit, may have a theory as to why the team has struggled so mightily.
“It seems that power plays are down throughout the year and in the postseason, for whatever reason, so when you do get the man-advantage sometimes you're not in a complete rhythm when you get out there,” he said.
Kane also recalled that Chicago's power play during its Stanley Cup run in 2010 was a big part of that team's success. It's an entirely different story in 2013, as they're winning in spite of the power play.
It's one thing for a power play to struggle, it's another for a team to be so predictable and stagnant as Chicago was, particularly in Game 1, and not have any answer.
However, simplicity is the name of the game for Chicago, as defenseman Nick Leddy explained.
“I think you really got to try to keep things simple and not do too much out there,” said the young rearguard. “During the season we got away from that at times. At this stage, everyone's playing great team defense, so you have to keep things simple.”
Things may be getting a little too simple, however, and the predictability isn't necessarily a recipe for beating a Bruins penalty kill that has allowed just seven power-play goals against in 55 disadvantages this postseason.
With games as close a shave as Game 1 was for Chicago, the answers may need to come soon.