An Early Look at the Chicago Blackhawks 2021-22 Powerplay Units

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An Early Look at the Chicago Blackhawks 2021-22 Powerplay Units

Chicago Blackhawks

Monday’s return to the ice for the Blackhawks included our first look at the new powerplay units for Chicago heading into the 2021-22 season.

Although it had turned into a weakness for the Blackhawks in recent years, the powerplay got off to a hot start last season. But after being near/at the top of the league through March, the Blackhawks hit a wall mid-way through the season and had the powerplay fall off along with them.

From the start of the year to March 1st, Chicago was operating at a league-best 33.3% success-rate on the powerplay, but from March 1st to the end of the regular season, Chicago only converted at a 14.7% rate, 22nd in the league through that span. Finishing last season with the 11th-ranked powerplay in the NHL was a major improvement from being 28th during the 2019-20 season, and was the highest the team has ranked since the 2015-16 season when they were second in the league.

The top powerplay unit for the Blackhawks on Monday had a 1-3-1 setup with Seth Jones “quarterbacking’ the group led by Jonathan Toews at the net-front, Tyler Johnson in the “bumper” position, with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the wings. While these are still the first few days of the preseason, this first go with the first group showed a lot of skill and cross-ice opportunities for the likes of Kane and DeBrincat.

There was also a considerable amount of movement and interchanging on the top unit, something that you’ll see a lot of when the Blackhawks are clicking on the man-advantage. When they aren’t, there tends to be a lot of just giving the puck to Patrick Kane and expecting him to do something with it. This unit doesn’t allow for Kane to be the only threat.

The second powerplay unit that was given a look with the second practice group on Monday was a bit less star-studded and it showed in the first go around. Puck movement and players interchanging positions wasn’t as abundant and the focus seemed to be to get the puck to Dominik Kubalík at the right circle to give him one-timer chances.

While getting Kubalík on the powerplay and giving him an opportunity to use his cannon of a shot is what I had been clamoring for last season, having him be the sole focus of a powerplay unit won’t work for Chicago.

Again, this is all still in the first week of training camp, so there’s nothing to say these groups and strategies are set in stone. I hope that the second unit, which has a much younger vibe than the first unit, can be an asset once the season begins rather than an opportunity for the opposition’s penalty-kill unit to get a breather.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.