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.)
“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.”