CHICAGO – Everything started so well.
Blackhawks fans filled the United Center before the series opener against the Detroit Red Wings and were going wild (fun wild, not Minnesota Wild). Jim Cornelison’s singing of the national anthem was as loud as I could remember. The Hawks’ power play required less than 10 minutes to produce a goal.
For starters, the Hawks’ power play experienced an outage.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be hockey guru Barry Melrose – I don’t have enough hair, nor do I have enough suits – but I think I grasp one of the sport’s concepts pretty well.
To win hockey games, you must score more goals than the other team. And if you’re not scoring any goals on the power play, you’re probably not scoring more goals than the other team.
The Hawks find themselves in a 2-1 series deficit against the Red Wings largely because they have scored zero goals on
the power play and two goals total in the past two games. That’s not exactly a feel-good statistic heading into Game 4 on Thursday at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, but time remains for the Hawks to patch up their problems and revive their dormant scoring attack.
As it stands, the Hawks are 1 for 9 against the Wings on the power play and a paltry 3 for 22 on the man advantage in the postseason. The only remaining team with a worse playoff power play is the New York Rangers, who are trying like crazy not to be eliminated by the Boston Bruins.
It’s hard to imagine a team as talented as the Hawks struggling so much with an extra skater.
“I don’t think anybody’s panicking,” said Hawks forward Marian Hossa, whose measured breaths suggested he was telling the truth. “We’re facing an extremely good team. They’re playing their best hockey of the season, I believe. But we’ve still got lots of confidence in our team and we feel confident going into Game 4. …
“But we need to get our power play going. We need a big goal from the power play.”
At this point, any power-play goal by the Hawks would qualify as a “big goal.”
When it comes to his lineup, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has loaded his top power-play unit with the best of the best. No wealth distribution here. Everyone involved is a hockey 1 percenter.
Jonathan Toews serves as the primary anchor and net-front presence. He is joined on the wings by fellow stars Hossa and Patrick Kane. At the point are Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp, both of whom have the ability to blast shots through traffic for goals or friendly rebounds.
At least, that’s the theory, unless something goes awry.
So what’s wrong, and how to fix it?
“Our power play, it starts with faceoffs,” Quenneville said.
With that said, I went back and re-watched the Hawks’ 3-1 loss in Game 3.
As the Hawks lined up for their first power-play attempt in a scoreless game in the first period, Toews lost the draw to Pavel Datsyuk, and the Wings cleared the puck down the ice. That burned off about 20 seconds, which is 16.7 percent of the duration of the man advantage.
Datsyuk won another draw against second-line center Dave Bolland during the same power play, and the Wings cleared the puck once again to burn more time off of the clock. Tick, tick, tick.
Where does all of the time go? Well, in hockey, it goes down the ice.
Now, the Hawks must prevent their record-setting season from going down the drain.
“We’d like to get some more chances, more shots on net, create some more,” Sharp said. “But I’ve got faith – not only in our whole group – but the guys who are on the power play that we’ll find a way to get it done.”
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.