Blackhawks’ power play remains futile in loss to Canadiens

By Chicago 5 Min Read

MONTREAL — At some point, the Blackhawks’ hex on special-teams goals will lift.

But it didn’t in a 3-2 loss Saturday to the Canadiens. Three games into the season, the Hawks’ penalty kill remains flawless. And, of far greater concern, their power play remains futile.

The power play was clearly the biggest culprit behind the loss. The Hawks had seven power-play opportunities, including 45 seconds of five-on-three time in the first period, yet failed to convert any. They’re now 0-for-14 through three games this season. (Their penalty kill, meanwhile, is a perfect 7-for-7.)

Conversely, the Canadiens’ penalty killers generated plenty of odd-man breaks. They finally converted their third such chance, with Sean Monahan beating goalie Petr Mrazek late in the second period for a short-handed goal to make it 3-0.

The Hawks rallied in the third period, with Tyler Johnson scoring twice and Seth Jones hitting the post in the waning seconds, but coach Luke Richardson afterward pointed to Monahan’s goal as the moment that ‘‘killed’’ the Hawks.

‘‘Early on we had some good movement [on the power play], then just frustration [set in],’’ Richardson said. ‘‘When the frustration sets in, you make poor decisions.’’

The lead-up to Monahan’s goal exemplified several of the issues plaguing the Hawks’ power play at the moment.

Rookie Connor Bedard looks dangerous, roaming and circling around the offensive zone in search of space to shoot, but his ultra-quick shots are missing the net a bit too often. Several times they’ve ricocheted off the glass and out of the zone, as happened this time.

Jones then overestimated his ability to get to the loose puck first, leaving him out of position and allowing Canadiens forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard to poke the puck to Monahan behind him.

‘‘When there’s a shooter on the other side of the ice, you have to protect that shooter and make sure you get to the wall or back that up,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘We didn’t do that tonight. Just poor decision-making led to that.’’

Lukas Reichel, who inherited Taylor Hall’s spot on the flank opposite Bedard on the top unit, pointed Saturday morning to zone entries as an issue he had noticed.

Those zone entries were troublesome again Saturday, with the Hawks trying — and frequently bungling — some passing-heavy entry plays instead of trusting Reichel and Bedard to use their skating agility to handle things on their own.

‘‘You’re trying to think ahead, and you’re not completing what you’re doing,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘We started to try to make little saucer passes that are too soft. In this league, sticks are too hard. [Teams] just knock those down.’’

Richardson’s dedication to keeping Jones atop the top power-play unit — while rookie Kevin Korchinski quarterbacks the second unit — is already frustrating fans, but the Hawks actually have been less effective during Korchinski’s ice time so far. They’ve produced only two shots on goal in 10 minutes of power-play time with Korchinski, compared with 17 shots on goal in 15 minutes with Jones.

But while the Hawks overall are averaging fewer shots on goal per power-play minute this season than last (0.74 vs. 0.84), they’re generating more scoring chances (1.05 vs. 0.72), suggesting that bad luck has contributed to their struggles and that a breakthrough eventually will come.

They just have to avoid letting this adversity start to erode their chemistry.

‘‘I don’t want to use the word ‘selfish,’ but we started to rely on our skill instead of helping each other [and] making it more of a team game,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘Sometimes when things aren’t going your way, you try to do that extra little bit too much. When you do that, I find that’s when things go south pretty quick.’’

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