When considering the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, you can look at their 3-3-1 record in two ways: their record is mediocre because of it, or they’re still getting points despite it.
No matter how you look at it, however, the penalty kill’s malaise has to stop.
In seven games this season, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has allowed 14 goals on 26 opportunities. Through their first seven games last season the Blackhawks were shorthanded 18 times, allowing three goals.
Looking at seasons overall, the Blackhawks allowed 46 power-play goals over 82 games last season. The kill allowed a scant 35 goals during the 2014-15 season and 46 goals in 2013-14.
Yes, the Blackhawks know it’s a big problem and they’ve talked about it and worked on it. So far, they just haven’t seen the results on it. Some have come off faceoffs. Some have come from long distance. Some have come off rebounds. It doesn’t seem to matter what they do: goals get scored. The Blackhawks will keep going back to the drawing board until they restore that penalty kill to its normal success rate.
“We talk a lot about the way we’re forcing it up ice, how we’re forcing it in the neutral zone, forcing entries, how we’re moving together as units, the personnel changes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve tried a number of different looks on the back end, as pairs up front. We’re trying to find something that clicks. we haven’t gotten that confidence yet where we’re comfortable with just about any pairs right now. hopefully we can get that stabilized.
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“We know the importance of that influencing the outcome of games and sometimes it can win a game for us. But it’s been a real negative so far,” Quenneville added. “We got through three in a row there. hopefully that’s the start of something positive.”
The Blackhawks killed off the final three penalties they took against the Calgary Flames on Monday night. It was a shot of confidence for a group that needed it, and now they have to repeat that more often.
“We just kept our feet moving. We were working. Our shifts were 20 to 30 seconds tops,” Jonathan Toews said. “When you go that short you have the energy to outwork the power play and make up for being down one man. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the key right there, and I think our systems fall into place when we’re all moving and we’re all skating the right way.”
Artem Anisimov said those three successful kills were “intense.”
“We were skating. We didn’t give so much time to set up in our zone,” Ansimov said. “It was like, always clear. We cleared the puck 200 feet and it was successful.”
The Blackhawks have been talking “baby steps” regarding their penalty kill the past few games. Killing three in a row off on Monday night could be one, but it means nothing if they allow another one in their next game. The penalty kill is broken. The Blackhawks will keep trying to fix it.