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.”

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.