Blackhawks

Penalty kill key part of equation for Blackhawks chasing fourth Stanley Cup in eight years

Penalty kill key part of equation for Blackhawks chasing fourth Stanley Cup in eight years

It took the Blackhawks nearly two months to climb out of the basement in the penalty kill department after a historically bad October when they allowed 15 goals on 30 attempts in their first eight games of the season.

Since then, the Blackhawks rank ninth in the league with an 83 percent success rate. 

The unit came up large in Friday's 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, killing all four penalties, a few of which came at key moments of the game.

"Penalty killing was outstanding," Joel Quenneville said after the game. "I thought they did a good job of denying the shots, the point shots from the middle especially, their execution and movement together was excellent. They had some good clears, (Corey Crawford) made some good stops. Critical timing of some of the kills was important as well."

The Blue Jackets, who have been a top-5 power play team for the majority of the campaign, slipped outside the top-10 with an 0-for-4 night, extending their goal drought on the man advantage to nine games (0-for-17 over that span).

They recorded nine shots on their four opportunities Friday, but the Blackhawks did a great job of limiting their quality chances.

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"Yeah, the penalty kill was huge," said Patrick Kane, who had three assists and moved within four points of Connor McDavid in the NHL's scoring race. "It seems like we did a great job penalty killing as far as not really giving them too many lanes to shoot. Guys were getting in front of pucks, and when they got shots through, it seemed like they were going wide or (Crawford) was getting his body on it. Great job by them tonight. That's going to be huge going into the playoffs."

It gave the Blackhawks some much-needed confidence in that area after they went 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) in their previous four games before Pittsburgh's contest, where they bounced back with a 2-for-2 performance. That's now six straight penalties killed, putting the team back on track.

The Blackhawks increased their season point total to 107 with the victory, and reached the 50-win mark for only the second time in franchise history. They've all but locked up the Central Division and home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference, but they're not losing sight of the bigger prize.

"I like how we’ve progressed in our game," Quenneville said. "Tough league, tough conference, tough division. But we’re happy with what we’ve achieved in the regular season. That’s not what we’re looking for, but it’s certainly put us in the spot we wanted."

In their previous three championship runs, the Blackhawks have finished fifth (2010), third (2013) and 10th (2015) in penalty kill percentage. If they want to get to where they want to go, which is a fourth Stanley Cup in eight years, the penalty kill is a vital part of the equation.

Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

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AP

Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

ST. LOUIS — One year ago today, the Blackhawks were enjoying an off-day after snapping their second eight-game losing streak of the season with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Adjustments were still being made under new head coach Jeremy Colliton, but there was at least some optimism that light would be at the end of the tunnel once they all got on the same page.

The Blackhawks have an off-day on Friday, but they’re in a much different place this time around. And not in a good way.

After losing for the ninth time in 12 games (3-7-2) and third straight (0-2-1), the Blackhawks are making standings watching irrelevant in Chicago in a year where it shouldn’t be. Their playoff chances are slipping away quicker than an odd-man rush and nobody wants to start looking ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft class because they shouldn’t be in this position again.

The inconsistency issues are real, the injuries continue to mount, the losses are getting uglier and the schedule is only getting tougher. The Blackhawks aren’t just losing hockey games. They’re not even giving themselves a chance. 

In their last six losses, the Blackhawks have been outscored 29-11 for a minus-18 goal differential. They’ve given up at least five goals in four of them and have one regulation win since Nov. 17.

And it’s hard to see how it can get better.

The easiest in-season change to make when a team with playoff expectations is underperforming is to change the voice and message the players are listening to. But the Blackhawks played that card last season.

In 2015-16, the Blackhawks deservedly earned a pass for running out of gas in the first round after coming off a season in which they captured a third Stanley Cup in six years.

In 2016-17, the Blackhawks called being swept in the first round by Nashville as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a "wake-up call" and promised changes.

In 2017-18, the Blackhawks pointed to Corey Crawford’s season-ending injury in December as a reason for their second-half spiral.

In 2018-19, the Blackhawks preached patience after making a coaching change for the first time in 10 years.

In 2019-20, there is no excuse. The Blackhawks had another long offseason to get it right and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were coming off career statistical seasons at age 30. The roster is better but the product on the ice hasn’t changed.

The tide eventually might turn for the Blackhawks, but right now it's difficult to see a path for how it will.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Robin Lehner calls out team defense plus Mike Gapski on his 2500 games with the Blackhawks

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Robin Lehner calls out team defense plus Mike Gapski on his 2500 games with the Blackhawks

Another night and another awful showing by the Blackhawks team defense, and this time, Robin Lehner let the team hear about it. Pat Boyle, Adam Burish and Scott King discuss the Blackhawks' ugly loss to the Coyotes and whether there should be some more line mixing happening soon. Plus, head athletic trainer Mike Gapski took part in his 2500th game with the Blackhawks and he sat down with Pat Foley 1-on-1 to re-live his 33 years with the organization.

1:13 - The odd-man rushes are piling up against this defense

5:54 - Is the power play getting going kinda maybe a little bit?

7:43 - Should Jeremy Colliton mix up the lines once again?

9:20 - The Kirby Dach playing-time dilemma

13:45 - Celebrating Mike Gapski's 2500 games with the Blackhawks

17:00 - Pat Foley's 1-on-1 interview with Mike Gapski

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.