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.
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.”