Blues must start converting more power-play chances
CHICAGO — Through the first three games of their Western Conference first-round playoff series, the St. Louis Blues’ penalty kill has been exactly what they need it to be, killing off 13 of 14 Blackhawks power-play opportunities.
Unfortunately for the Blues, Chicago’s penalty kill has been just as effective — which means their power play has fizzled.
The Blues ranked eighth in the NHL during the regular season with a 19.8 percent success rate on the advantage, but so far against the Blackhawks they have scored just once in 16 opportunities (6.25 percent).
There’s been hardly anything powerful about it, but coach Ken Hitchcock said following the Blues’ 2-0 Game 3 loss Monday that he liked what he saw from his power-play units.
"I think it’s typical of any playoff series right now," Hitchcock said. "The PK on both sides has a bead on the power play. I think whichever team controls the frustration on the power play is maybe going to have success. We’ve been fortunate we got the one big goal on the six-on-four. That’s kind of been the big difference for us so far. That saved us.
"But I really liked our power play today. We made a lot of adjustments. For having like 10 minutes of practice I thought our guys really did a good job on the power play today."
That one big goal, of course, was Vladimir Tarasenko’s power-play goal with 6.4 seconds left in Game 2 that tied the score and sent the game to overtime, where Barret Jackman netted the game-winner.
That’s the saving grace for the Blues right now, who lead the series 2-1 going into Game 4 on Wednesday night at the United Center. But St. Louis will need to start capitalizing on every opportunity it gets to avoid a first-round playoff series letdown like last year’s against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Blues had three power-play chances Monday night but could not slip the puck past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
"We have power-play chances and our fair share of other chances, and we have to put them in the net," forward Alexander Steen said.
The Blues’ leading goal scorer during the regular season, Steen knows they had enough opportunities Monday night that they could have reversed the outcome had they been able to solve Crawford.
"Our PK was good tonight, and our power play could have won us the game and didn’t," Steen said.
The Blues had seven shots on goal with the advantage Monday, the fewest they’ve had in the first three games. St. Louis had 10 in Game 2 and nine in Game 1.
This is one of the areas where the Blues could miss their captain the most.
David Backes led St. Louis with 10 power-play goals in the regular season, and his presence in front of the net was also significant as a screener and a nuisance for opposing goalies and defensemen.
Hitchcock said Monday night that the Blues could get Backes back "in the next two or three games" after the hit he sustained late in Game 2.
But until Backes returns, the Blues will have to find a way to be more productive on the power play. Steen didn’t mince his words late Monday night.
"Our power play has to put the puck in the net," he said.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.