Blackhawks’ penalty kill getting back to playoff mode

Blackhawks’ penalty kill getting back to playoff mode

The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was not looking like itself for a few weeks.

Usually so strong, for a while it was a bane to the Blackhawks’ existence. It wasn’t reliable. It wasn’t strong. It wasn’t...killing.

But in the last few weeks the trend has reversed itself. The Blackhawks killed off 29 of 31 penalties over their final 11 regular-season games. Considering how many postseason games come down to one goal, and how big special teams are, the kill’s resurgence couldn’t be coming at a better time.

“We rely on that being a big part of our team success, knowing important times of games. Games are tied, the next goals are so important and the special teams can make the difference one way or another,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We rely on our penalty killing to get us through some tough spots.”

Marcus Kruger returning certainly helped the kill but it’s been more than that. The kill has allowed fewer shots and has also been better at clearing pucks. That, and with each successful kill the Blackhawks’ confidence is growing. It’s a far cry from earlier in the regular season, when the Blackhawks struggled to get out of a kill without allowing a goal.

“There was a hiccup there for 15-20 games. We weren’t that great. But it seems like a few guys coming in through trades, also Krugs is back, it just seems like it’s clicking,” Andrew Desjardins said. “Obviously having special teams going, anytime anything’s going, that positive confidence you have. It’s always good to bring that into the playoffs.”

[MORE: Blackhawks getting healthy at the perfect time]

During the past three Stanley Cup-winning postseasons, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been Top 10. It was really great during the 2010 and 2013 runs (fourth and third in the playoffs, respectively). Those successful kills mean momentum at critical times.

“It’s so important for the playoffs,” said Marian Hossa, another critical member who’s about to return to the kill. “In one year because of the penalty killing [it] definitely helped us to win the Cup. It is important, just like the power play. But killing penalties is huge. It gives you so much extra jump after you kill a penalty in a crucial moment. It’s a key factor.”

The Blackhawks need to be at their best in every category during the postseason, but some perhaps even more than others. The kill is one of those parts of the game that’s extra important, and the Blackhawks are improving on it at just the right time.

“Paying attention to detail, awareness of where we’re at and what were trying to do in series with everybody making adjustments. I know these guys are pretty adaptive of moving around and doing different things,” Quenneville said. “We’ll need them to be good.”

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center


Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: