Blackhawks feeling better about the penalty kill


Blackhawks feeling better about the penalty kill

The Minnesota Wild’s final power play of the night expired without any damage done, the Blackhawks wrapping up a successful penalty kill.

The Blackhawks ended the night in that category a lot better than they began it, holding the Wild at bay twice in the third period when they were trying to tie the game.

It was a much-needed boost of confidence to a penalty kill that’s surprisingly struggled for weeks now. And the Blackhawks, who held on to beat the Wild 4-3 in Game 1 on Friday night, will need more of that as this series continues.

“Obviously that pretty good getting those two kills in the third (period),” Marcus Kruger said on Saturday. “We weren't happy with that first goal in the second period, but we regrouped and found a way to get it done there in the third.”

[MORE: Teravainen nets winner as Blackhawks edge Wild in Game 1]

As written prior to this series, the penalty kill hasn’t had many issues the past few seasons. It’s become the team’s strength. But it struggled late in the regular season and in the first round against the Nashville Predators, who got six power-play goals. The Wild power play, which now has five postseason goals including Zach Parise’s second-period score on Friday, provides another challenge.

So what worked on those final two power plays that didn’t work on the first one?

“Their goal was kind of on a broken play. That third period I thought we had better pressure entering the zone, had a couple clears...” coach Joel Quenneville said. “And I think when they get possession they got some different looks. We blocked some shots as well. I think when there was a chance to clear pucks we cleared pucks.”

Clears are critical. There were times in the first round when the Blackhawks’ clearing attempts weren’t working and they resulted in opponents’ power-play goals. Rebounds also accounted for some. Corey Crawford kept them at a minimum on those third-period kills.

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Denying the Wild a lot of good entries, another problem the Blackhawks had against the Predators, also helped.

“That's something I think that you talk about all the time,” Johnny Oduya said. “Obviously if you put pressure right in the beginning — on entries, deny entries — they can't set up as easy. It's something you want to do every team kill. Everybody around the league kind of thinks the same way. We need to do a better job. A lot of times when you get the puck out quick, you can change — there are a lot of things that come with that.”

The Blackhawks are taking steps in the right direction on their penalty kill. It used to be one of the steadiest parts of their game. They’ll need it to be again to withstand the Wild.

“It felt pretty good,” Oduya said. “There were a couple shots maybe that went through and Corey made the saves. Even though we let up a couple goals I think we still feel that in times in games when we need to, we can step up [on the kill] and shut it down.”

2019 NHL Draft Profile: LW Matthew Boldy

NBC Sports

2019 NHL Draft Profile: LW Matthew Boldy

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Matthew Boldy

Position: Left wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 192 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley:

"Big winger, great shot, highly skilled. I think what he brings is size, the shot, and he has a deceptively good two-way game."

NHL player comparable: David Pastrnak

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks are likely leaning toward drafting a center or defenseman with the No. 3 overall pick, but Boldy is an intriguing prospect because he’s drawn comparisons to Marian Hossa. And that’s a player the team has missed over the last two seasons.

Boldy is one of the most complete players in this draft class, and already has the size to play in the NHL. He’s a great skater, responsible in his own end, can play in any situation and can really play any style. Boldy might be a year away from making the jump to the pros, but he's going to be a player the you never have to worry about on the left side.

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Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

One of the Blackhawks’ priorities this summer is to add pieces that will help shore up the defensive part of their game after they gave up the second-most goals in the NHL last season. And they didn’t waste much time doing it.

Less than a week before the 2019 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks announced Saturday that they have acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Maatta is 24 years old, carries a left-handed shot and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. But he battled injuries last season and fell out of favor in Pittsburgh, where he was a healthy scratch for three games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks are hoping a fresh start could help Maatta find his game again, and do it in a place that may better utilize his skill-set. Where he could help is in the defensive part. 

According to The Point, Maatta ranked 9th among defensemen in blocked shots per game (2.05), 26th in defensive zone puck battles won (2.45), 40th in blocked defense zone passes (3.77) and 47th in outlet passes (8.95). 

Maatta, who was taken in the first round (No. 22 overall) in 2012, had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 60 games last season. His best year came in 2017-18 when he tallied 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 82 games. He has three years remaining on his deal that carries a $4.083 million cap hit.

It’s worth noting that when Maatta signing his extension with Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, 2016, the contract included a modified no-trade clause in his final two years, according to Cap Friendly. The Blackhawks will have the option to either honor that clause or nullify it.

The Blackhawks are expected to have some heavy competition among the forwards at training camp with the signings of Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin. That likely made Kahun expendable despite a rookie season in which he compiled 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games.