TAMPA, Fla. – It was a concern coming out of the first round.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill, usually so reliable, was anything but at that point. With time and ensuing rounds, however, came adjustments and improvement. And so far in the Stanley Cup Final, the kill has been dependable again.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has allowed just one power-play goal so far in this series. That one was a costly one – Jason Garrison’s goal, which proved to be the winning one for Game 2. But outside of that, the kill has been effective. In Game 4 the kill thwarted four more Lightning power play opportunities, including three in the first period when the Blackhawks were struggling to start.
Not bad against a Lightning power play that scored seven goals in as many games against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
“Yeah, we know they’re a dangerous team especially on the power play,” Marcus Kruger said. “It’s a big part of our team game. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing recently. We have to keep getting better.”
Unlike the power play, which can sometimes go through personnel changes when it’s struggling, the penalty kill’s players have remained basically the same. In the first round against Nashville, which scored six power-play goals against them, the Blackhawks weren’t getting in the Predators’ way. Lanes were open and pucks weren’t being cleared. Both of those areas have been shored up as the playoffs have progressed.
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“Sometimes you change little things here and there,” Andrew Desjardins said. “I think it’s getting better and better. We’re really committed to that shooting lane. Things we’ve been doing well over the last little bit, that’s what has to continue. Little things go a long way with the penalty kill.”
Both teams will get a few more power-play opportunities before this series is over. The Lightning got plenty of offense in the second round and Eastern Conference Final on that power play. So far, the Blackhawks’ kill has kept the Lightning from finding the same success in the Cup final.
“Each team we've played in the playoffs has got some different things you got to be worried about,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve played some real good power plays. We got a real good power play on the other side. [There’s] no satisfaction with being where we're at; it constantly has to be looked at. We do whatever we can to keep it out of our net.”