Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

Editor’s Note: This column appears in tonight’s edition of The Committed Indian. Help Sam Fels feed his drinking habit by purchasing one outside of the United Center for $3, or sign up for a digital copy on the website. Don’t be cheap.

Second Note: This was originally written for Friday’s Indian, but Sam had to push it back to tonight’s issue. So, this obviously doesn’t include the Blackhawks going 2 for 3 on the power play against Nashville. Stats in the column are as of Thursday afternoon.

There aren’t many secrets here. It’s not like Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff are holding on to some sort of magical strategy while purposely sending the players out on the ice at a disadvantage, only to later surprise everyone with a full-proof plan that results in unlimited goals with the man advantage.

The Blackhawks’ power play sucks, and there’s no amount of high-sucrose recipes in this world that can sugarcoat it enough. They’ve gone 0 for 19 over their last nine games and haven’t potted a power-play goal since Patrick Kane’s tally in the third period of a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on March 29.

At the time of writing this Thursday afternoon, the ‘Hawks are tied with the New York Rangers for 20th in the league converting just 15.4 percent of their power-play chances. Take out the Blackhawks scoring six power-play goals through the first four games, and the percentage drops to 12.9 since Jan. 26.

And we’ve seen everything, too. The constant inability to enter the offensive zone while the other team has one fewer guy can make anyone’s urge to kill rise dramatically. Once in the zone? Who knows. Gaining possession after a dump-in hasn’t exactly been something of a regular occurrence. And if that does happen, you can usually count on a lack of movement as the Blackhawks wait for that back-door pass through the crease to open up. The problem is that it rarely ever does, yet that doesn’t stop them from attempting to pass through opponents’ sticks that unfortunately aren’t invisible.

This isn’t exactly new. We watched the Blackhawks do much of the same last season when they finished 26th in the league with a similar 15.2 percent conversion rate.

Yes, there’s been plenty that’s frustrating about watching the ‘Hawks blow chance after chance with the man advantage, and the popular notion is that this ineptitude while cause more harm to the Blackhawks when they get into the playoffs against better competition and need to convert on these prime opportunities. However, based on the power-play statistics of some recent Stanley Cup winners, that may not exactly be the case.

Despite a power play that scores less than the captain of a high school chess team, the ‘Hawks are 33-5-4 in a season they set a record with a season-opening 24-game point streak. They’ve wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and are on the fast track to claim their first Presidents Trophy since 1990-91. And even with minimal contributions from the power-play units, the Blackhawks lead the West with 133 goals and are tops in the NHL in scoring margin at whopping plus-50.

The only thing left is winning the Stanley Cup, which isn’t uncommon for other teams who have struggled with the man advantage. Seven of the last nine champions ranked 16th or worse in power-play percentage in the regular season, and that number didn’t always get much better during their postseason runs, either.

Here’s a look, obviously excluding the 2004-05 season that Gary Bettman is still holding in his taint:

2012     Los Angeles Kings        17th (17.0)     12.8 in playoffs
2011     Boston Bruins               20th (16.2)     11.4
2010     Chicago Blackhawks      16th (17.7)     22.5
2009     Pittsburgh Penguins      20th (17.2)     20.6
2008     Detroit Red Wings        3rd  (20.7)     18.9
2007     Anaheim Ducks             3rd  (22.4)     15.2
2006     Carolina Hurricanes      17th (17.9)     24.0
2004     Tampa Bay Lightning    16th (16.2)     21.0
2003     New Jersey Devils        30th (11.9)      15.5

With the exception of those powerful units in Anaheim and Detroit in ’07 and ’08, respectively, you can see recent Stanley Cup winners haven’t relied on exceptional conversion rates – including the Blackhawks during their run, though they did pick it up in the playoffs. It’s the penalty kill where recent champions – and this season’s ‘Hawks – have shined to make up for the lack of power play goals.

The Blackhawks are tied with San Jose for fourth with an 86.1 kill percentage, which has allowed them to still hold a plus-4 power-play goal differential. They’ve killed off 27 of 28 short-handed situations with two short-handed goals over their last 14 games. The Hawks are 2 for 35 on the power play in that stretch and, combined with the shorties, have essentially canceled out their power-play deficiencies. The two times they scored power-play goals in that span were in a pair of losses to Anaheim.

As for recent Cup winners? Seven of that last nine – including the Hawks, who finished fourth – have ranked in the top 10 in penalty-kill percentage. So while the ‘Hawks aren’t exactly lighting it up with the man advantage, they’re snuffing out the power-play chances of their opponents, just as Stanley Cup winners have tended to do.

And while there’s plenty of frustration and bewilderment for how the Blackhawks, with all that offensive firepower, can’t simply score at will while the opposition is down a man, they’ve been absolutely stellar 5-on-5 – the situation in which the majority of the game is played. They’ve scored 97 goals when both teams are at full strength, good for second in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Steven Stamkoses.

The scoring-inept Kings (24th) of last season who have goaltender Jonathan Quick to thank for their Stanley Cup, the ’07 Ducks (12th) and the ’08 Wings (8th) are the only Cup winners since 2003 to not finish in the top 4 of the NHL in 5-on-5 goals. And while you’re wondering about defense, the last three Cup winners have finished in the top 5 in goals-against per game.

Without getting caught up in the “controversy” swirling between Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, the ‘Hawks have allowed an NHL-best 83 goals. If that continues, the power play can just start declining penalties.

I’m just as guilty as anyone as I sit in my seat in Section 326 who gets frustrated watching the Blackhawks’ power play fart away chance after chance, but I’m assuming fans of the recent Cup champions experienced similar feelings prior to watching their captain raise Lord Stanley. I know I felt the same way back in 2009-10.

Just don’t confuse that frustration with doom and gloom. If the Blackhawks are winning without an exceptionally high power-play percentage during the regular season, they can do so in the playoffs, too. They’re making up for that deficiency in plenty of other areas.