Blackhawks looking to improve penalty kill vs. Wild


Blackhawks looking to improve penalty kill vs. Wild

Not that long ago, when the Blackhawks’ penalty kill took the ice, confidence always followed.

There was a good reason for that: the team’s kill was one of the best in the league. It was as strong as the power play was sketchy. But as the regular season ended and the playoffs began, that kill started giving up more than it stopped. Now as they enter the second round, the Blackhawks are looking for their kill to be effective again.

[MORE: Who has the edge in the Blackhawks-Wild series?]

The Blackhawks allowed six power-play goals in their first-round series against the Nashville Predators, a garish number for a kill that used to be so stingy. The kill allowed 10 power-play goals over the entire 2014 postseason.

“Yeah we’re not happy with how we did on the penalty kill last series but we need to learn from that and get better,” said Marcus Kruger. “The biggest thing is getting some confidence, getting some big kills. We know we have a good system here and know we have the players to do it, too. I can’t see why we’re not going to do better here.”

The Predators’ power play cashed in on redirects, deflections and rebounds.

“In the past we don’t give up those type of goals,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s something that we’ve got to rectify from our last series… let’s prevent their power play from getting excited.”

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Special teams are always more critical in the postseason. As much as we wonder why the Blackhawks’ power play struggles when it does, teams have won Stanley Cups with that being underwhelming. The 2013 Blackhawks, 2012 Los Angeles Kings and 2011 Boston Bruins did not have great power plays. So if you’re going to have one working well – and it’s rare when a team has both – you’d rather have the kill. The Blackhawks killed off nearly 91 percent of their penalties in their 2013 Cup run.

“We definitely weren’t happy with how the PK worked out. We got scored on more than we’d like to,” Marian Hossa said of the first round. “Right now we talk about it. We looked at some films to be on the same page, that’s the key.”

The Blackhawks have long had a strong, confident penalty kill. It took its lumps in the first round. It has to be better in the second.

“Collectively, let’s get in a rhythm, a few [good kill games] in a row here, and build off that. We set the tone early in the regular season that gave our penalty killers a lot of confidence,” Quenneville said. “It would be nice to have some zero games.”

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers


Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.