CHICAGO — Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, the perception about Chicago’s special teams was its penalty kill was terrific and the power play couldn’t get much worse. Four games into this series, things might be changing.
Chicago is hoping its penalty kill can return to the form that produced a 94.8 percent efficiency rating through three rounds. At the same time, there was guarded optimism that the power play could be reinvigorated coming off a stronger Game 4 effort.
So far the Bruins have converted four times in 13 power-play opportunities — including 2 for 5 in Game 4
On Wednesday night, the Bruins took advantage of their opportunities, which came with a dose of good fortune.
In the waning moments of the Bruins’ second power play, Chicago forward Brandon Saad slipped while trying to get to the puck near the top of the right circle, leaving Rich Peverley wide open to blast a shot by goalie Corey Crawford.
With Chicago seemingly in command late in the second period, holding a 4-2 lead while on the penalty kill, Zdeno Chara’s shot soared over the net, hit the glass, bounced back over the net, and found Patrice Bergeron in front, who scored his first of two goals.
“Sometimes they’re going to go in,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t think we did things that generated production.”
After Game 4, the Blackhawks talked about making adjustments to limit the Bruins’ scoring opportunities while on the power play.
“You have to give them credit but there have been a few times we haven’t been able to clear the puck,” noted defenseman Duncan Keith. “We had chances too and they have kept it in and they have scored some goals off that. If we could do a better job when we have that chance of clearing the puck that will help a lot.”
Forward Michael Frolik, one of Chicago’s top penalty killers, talked about the challenge the Blackhawks face.
“They have so many different looks and it is hard to adjust when they have so many skill players,” he said. “We talked about it this morning and we know we have to be better. We know what we have to do now and we have to be ready for it.”
In the first three rounds, Chicago had only a 13.7 percent success rate on the power play. In the Cup Final it got even worse as the Blackhawks went 0 for 10 in the first three games. Critics pointed to too much standing around in the Boston zone following entry passes that were nondescript at best.
But after going 1 for 4 Wednesday — with Patrick Sharp cashing in on a rebound in the third period — the Blackhawks hope they are moving in the right direction.
“It was a critical moment,” Sharp said of his goal, which gave Chicago a short-lived 5-4 lead. “But I think in general, looking back at that whole game, the power play was a lot better. We moved the puck around, we had a few chances and we had more composure with the puck. You are not going to score with every opportunity but if we come through in situations like that and sustain momentum, that is a huge plus.”
Quenneville acknowledged Friday the power-play struggles have frustrated his team, but Sharp’s goal might provide the confidence boost they need.
“Definitely the guys were pressing a little bit more in those situations,” he said. “Obviously the production could help get them even more comfortable in those areas as we go along here. We’re going to need our power play to score again, but that was certainly a big goal for us.”