DALLAS – Andrew Desjardins was asked about the Blackhawks’ overall penalty kill this season but his first thoughts were on the second power-play goal they gave up on Wednesday night.
“That second one, personally, was my mess up. That was just a complete misplay by me,” he said following Thursday’s optional practice. “I think the first one is one of those where it’s in between, a pretty good tip, a pretty good shot. Just making it too easy on that first one but the second one, that was my man.”
Hey, things happen sometimes. But for the Blackhawks’ kill lately, things have been happening against it too often. In their last 12 games (including their Feb. 9 outing against the San Jose Sharks), the Blackhawks penalty kill has allowed opponents 14 power-play goals (22 of 36 on kills). Their kill is currently ranked 24th in the NHL. That’s a steep drop from previous seasons; it was ranked 10th last season and third in the league in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
So what gives?
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]
“I still think we have to do a better job of blocking shots up top,” Desjardins said. “We have to pay attention to the details. I think just not giving up those free shots, which is key; doing everything to block those, especially wristers. You don’t want to let those get through because they’re easily tipped.”
The Blackhawks want to get their penalty kill back to where it was earlier this season, hopefully beginning on Friday when they face the Dallas Stars. The Blackhawks gave up two third-period power-play goals against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. That kill, which has won them games in the past, almost cost them two points the other night.
“I thought it was pretty good to start the year, we were pretty consistent. We’ve slowed down here recently,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Quality of shots, [we’re] not in shooting lanes; whether it’s stick position, awareness of what their strengths and tendencies are, whether it’s neglecting or you get tired, there are some coverage issues that I know we can be better at. Those are the things we want to make sure we shore up on our penalty killing, get it more predictable and consistent.”
Marian Hossa, who’s watched the past three weeks as he recovers from a lower-body injury, said it could be the little details.
“Well I think the system works; obviously we’ve done it so many years and it was successful. So that’s a great thing. But maybe there’s communication, being that one split second in the right spot,” Hossa said. “There are little things we can make ready. I don’t see a huge issue, but we know how to play it. We just have to be more on the same page.”
Now, missing Hossa and Marcus Kruger, who’s been out with a wrist injury since December, doesn’t help. The two have been critical parts of that kill for several seasons, and getting depth back there should improve the results.
“You get guys who are going to be in the first and third and second and fourth holes,” Quenneville said. “They’ve done it in the past and they’re good at it, and it’s one of their strengths and one of our team strengths is getting through critical penalties.”
But the Blackhawks can’t wait for those two to get back to shore things up. The kill has been a vital part of the Blackhawks’ success the past few seasons. They need it to be good again soon.
“A lot of nights that can be the difference between winning and losing, especially in key games and in key times in games,” Quenneville said. “We have to get back to being comfortable taking penalties – and when I say comfortable, you get a two- or three-penalty allotment and you’re comfortable in trying to find a way to get through it. But you can lose momentum giving up big goals at the wrong time of games.”
— Hossa participated in the Blackhawks’ optional practice on Thursday. He’ll see where he is after morning skate on whether he can/cannot play against the Stars on Friday night.
— Former Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (lower body) will not play on Friday.
— Corey Crawford will start against the Stars.