Blackhawks

Blackhawks penalty kill will be tested by Ducks' power play

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Blackhawks penalty kill will be tested by Ducks' power play

ANAHEIM, Calif. — You hear it all the time from the great teams: regardless of their success level they always feel they can be better, be it overall or in certain facets of their game.

The Blackhawks did get better on their penalty kill from the first round to the second, cutting the number of goals they allowed in half. It was something that needed to be rectified; their power play was their bread and butter back in the 2013 postseason run.

But the tests aren’t finished. Because now, when they face the Anaheim Ducks beginning Sunday afternoon, the Blackhawks will have to snuff out the league’s best postseason power play.

The Ducks have scored nine power-play goals on 29 opportunities for a 31 percent success rate. With the likes of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Maroon, who are also the Ducks’ top-line players, the Ducks have taken advantage of their advantages. They had three power-play goals in their four-game sweep against the Winnipeg Jets; but it really took off against the Calgary Flames, scoring six goals, (two goals each in Games 1, 4 and 5.)

[MORE: Boudreau says these Ducks are 'a more determined group']

“They have a couple of really skilled individuals on that team and are really good at those short passes in front of the net, close to the net, and finding good passing lanes,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “It’s going to be a tough challenge but I think we came up with a couple of big kills against Minnesota. The overall total wasn’t what we wanted, but that’s definitely one area we can improve on. And we have to improve on it if we’re going to move forward to the next round.”

The Blackhawks penalty kill has nullified 71.2 percent of the power plays they’ve faced. It’s not a great percentage, although it’s one that’s skewed by the first round when they allowed six power-play goals. They gave up three to Minnesota, although one was a 6-on-4 power play goal in the final three minutes of Game 4.

So it’s getting better. But against the Ducks, it’s going to have to be great. Granted, the Blackhawks know the best way to avoid penalty-kill concerns.

“Stay out of the box, first option,” said coach Joel Quenneville.

Sure, but since they’ll still likely end up on the kill, the Blackhawks know they have to be prepared.

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“They have two real good units. They shoot the puck, have presence at the net, good patience and play recognition and are a threat off the rush,” Quenneville said. “All areas of our penalty killing have to be aware of their options, try to deter clean entries. It starts even off faceoffs. They’re dangerous in a lot of ways, so let’s make sure we don’t give them too many opportunities.”

The Blackhawks felt better about their kill as they wrapped up their second round. They want to keep improving in that department. The Ducks’ power play will test that.

“It’s a situation we’ll have to face,” Jonathan Toews said. “We have to be as good as we can be, especially [since] it’s been a big part of their game. We know the type of players they have who are a huge part of their offense. That’s where they like to capitalize. First our focus is staying away, staying out of the box. From there, [there are] some details we’ve been going over this past week. It’ll be a huge focus tomorrow.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”