The Blackhawks penalty kill was a thing of beauty in the early season. Its ability to shut opponents down, and score a few short-handed goals to boot, had it ranked in the top five in October.
Then November hit and well, lets just say it dropped. A lot. But in recent games the Blackhawks kill has had the killer instinct again. And on Thursday night, it came up really big at a critical time.
The Blackhawks killed nearly two minutes of a 5 on 3 en route to their 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday. It was part of a 6-for-6 penalty kill performance for the Blackhawks, who are 17 of 21 on the kill in their last eight games.
The Islanders 5 on 3 came moments after they scored their first goal to cut the Blackhawks lead to 2-1. The Isles had the momentum and 1:56 on the two-man advantage; but despite four shots on goal, they came up empty.
We got six or seven clears in that time, goaltender Ray Emery said. So thats huge when those guys can put that effort in.
The Blackhawks penalty kill is getting better. No, its certainly not top five in the NHL anymore. Its more like 27th. But considering this teams kill was languishing in last for weeks, its recent performances are encouraging.
Our penalty killing been good for us lately, Duncan Keith said. Its something weve talked about, taking pride in that. Its starting to pay off and help win us hockey games.
Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.
The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.
He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.
Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.
Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.
Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.
Mark Lazerus and Hub Arkush join David Kaplan on the panel.
The guys discuss Corey Crawford’s return and what it means for the team’s playoff chances.
Khalil Mack misses practice again. The guys debate if it would be better to leave him out vs. the Patriots.
The latest on the MLB playoffs with controversy in Houston and gamesmanship by the Brewers.
Will Perdue and Kendall Gill join the panel to discuss Kris Dunn’s absence from the opener and the team’s playoff chances this season.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.