Corey Perry’s net-front domination opens new options for Blackhawks’ power play

It took only a few days of training camp for Blackhawks coaches to notice one thing in particular about forward Corey Perry.

‘‘He just seems to get a stick on everything, everywhere he goes,’’ coach Luke Richardson said.

Wherever the puck goes, Perry’s stick always seems to be there, too.

That’s especially true within five feet of the net, which happens to be Perry’s favorite spot to plant himself. At this point in his career, given that he’s 38 years old and entering his 19th NHL season, he knows his skating can’t match that of most other forwards. But in the dirty areas that matter most, he remains effective.

‘‘You look at my career, I don’t think I’ve moved too far from that area,’’ Perry said, later calling it an art form. ‘‘It’s something I take pride in.’’

For a Hawks team still trying to establish a comprehensive offensive game plan, Perry’s ability to fill that niche might be very handy. They don’t have anybody else nearly as reliable or experienced in that net-front role.

His impact might be most noticeable on the power play. Richardson deployed him there in the Hawks’ first preseason game Thursday, with Seth Jones, Connor Bedard, Ryan Donato and Taylor Hall making up the rest of the top unit.

‘‘I just go in and not be afraid to take a lick or a shot,’’ Perry said.

Added Richardson: ‘‘Perry in front of the net is a very useful tool. He’s so smart that he knows when to feed off Connor, whether to be a screen or jump off . . . for a quick backdoor play.’’

Perry always has been a power-play weapon, with 454 career power-play points, but he has become even more specialized in that regard recently. Last season with the Lightning, 12 of his 25 points came on the power play.

He also ranked second on the Lightning, per power-play minute, in high-danger scoring chances (behind Brayden Point) and rebounds created (behind Steven Stamkos). Even at five-on-five, his rebound creation was off-the-chart-level good, according to analytics from All Three Zones.

So it would seem prudent for the Hawks — with the king of rebounds now on their side — to emphasize shooting early and often on power plays, confident they’ll be able to generate two or three chances out of it.

It turns out that’s exactly what they’re emphasizing. If done properly, it should represent a much-needed change from last season, when they ranked 27th in power-play shots per minute as a team.

‘‘Usually, you win the draw and can get a puck to the net and create some havoc,’’ Jones said. ‘‘If you get that puck back, everything is going your way from there; you have all the momentum. Being on the [penalty-kill] side of things, it throws you off-guard when they fire one or two shots right at the beginning. So that’s what we’re trying to do: be aggressive. All of us have that green light.’’

Said Richardson: ‘‘As teams pre-scout [us], they’ve got to be ready for a shot early. And that takes a little bit of aggression [out of] the other team’s penalty kill first. [They can’t] try to leak out and strike on the next guy they think is going to get the puck.’’

Perry has seen the effectiveness of the strategy firsthand before and has been encouraging his new teammates to fire away.

‘‘[If] we establish that point shot, other things start opening up,’’ Perry said. ‘‘The middle opens up or the sides or the flanks or the down-low play. It opens up so many more opportunities and so many more things that a power play can do.’’

Perry, Dickinson reminisce

Forwards Corey Perry and Jason Dickinson have spent some time since Perry arrived in Chicago reminiscing about their 2019-20 season together with the Stars. The ‘‘bubble playoffs’’ that ended that season dominates those memories.

By advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, the Stars ended up spending more than 70 consecutive days quarantined in the same hotel in Edmonton, Alberta, the most of any team. The Lightning, who ended up winning the Cup, played their first three series in the Toronto bubble instead.

‘‘We never wavered when we were there, and those things stick with you for the rest of your life,’’ Perry said. ‘‘It’s probably only going to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.’’

Added Dickinson: ‘‘[It’s] a memory we are both proud of and hate at the same time.’’

Perry had 30 points in 84 games (regular season and playoffs) for that Stars team; Dickinson had 25 points in 92 games. The friendship they built then is proving to be beneficial during this camp with the Hawks.

‘‘To have him here, to have a guy I can go to and talk to if something’s going on or I don’t know a guy’s name . . . it’s definitely going to help,’’ Perry said.

Dickinson played 13:11 in his first preseason appearance Sunday after sitting out a few days of camp to let a ‘‘small tweak’’ heal.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

gates of olympus