For the Blackhawks to find a spark, start with the power play

Jonathan Toews makes a pass during Blackhawks practice at the MB Ice Arena on December 5th.

CHICAGO – To worry about playoff standings in December is just looking for a reason to worry.

But it’s OK to feel a bit weird to look at the postseason list at the moment and not see the Blackhawks. If they playoffs started today, and they most certainly don’t, they’d be on the outside looking in.

That’s because of an unusual four games last week in which the team took a loss in every one of them. Yet it wasn’t as if they were blown out – one defeat was in overtime, another in a shootout, yet another came in regulation by a goal on the road. A 3-1 loss by the Kings is deceiving because LA scored two empty net goals when the Blackhawks pulled Anton Forsberg down by a goal late in the game.

So when talking to veteran Duncan Keith about the struggles of last week, there is a profound sense of calm and perspective.

“It’s not getting too down here,” said the defenseman on how to handle the Blackhawks’ struggles last week, and there is a big reason why the team has done so.

Joel Quenneville’s club hasn’t had an issue getting on the power play, leading the league with 112 chances. It’s what they do with it that’s caused the biggest amount of problems. During the four game skid, the Blackhawks had just one goal in 17 chances against the Predators, Stars, and Kings. That statistic is big considering the Blackhawks’ total margin of defeat in the losses was five goals.

For the season the Blackhawks have only scored 13 power play goals, which only looks impressive by the volume of power plays they’ve had. Their 16.1 percent success rate is ranked 29th in the NHL, hence some pretty radical line changes for Joel Quenneville before Wednesday’s showdown with the Capitals.

Yet Keith was insisting that a talented Blackhawks’ scoring front would break through soon enough, even if it’s been a slow first two months of the season on the power play.

“We beat ourselves into the ground, maybe overthink it sometimes,” said Keith. “Power plays kinda get hot then they go cold and obviously ours hasn’t been great all year. I think to get us out of it and stay out of it is just going to be keeping it simple and doing the things that work for us.”

It has in the past, and buys them some slack for a slow start this year.