Blackhawks avoid the penalty box

Blackhawks avoid the penalty box
October 24, 2011, 8:22 pm
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The Chicago Blackhawks are behaving themselves.

Exhibit A: their penalty box on Saturday night. The official there had a lonely night because no Blackhawks went in there all evening. Its the first time since last March the Blackhawks went a whole game without taking a penalty.

OK, that may be an anomaly. But the Blackhawks have kept their penalty totals down during this early season. In seven games theyve taken just 20, an average of 7.7 penalty minutes a contest. Both numbers are the lowest among NHL teams.

Its helped the Blackhawks avoid the penalty kill and the fatigue that goes along with that job. Their goaltender doesnt mind avoiding power plays, either.

It makes a huge difference when youre not killing penalties, said Corey Crawford, who only had to face Colorados highly ranked power play twice in two games. And it saves guys legs, too; guys arent as tired. When youre killing six or seven penalties a game it wears on you. Were playing every two days; it may not get you tired for that game but itll drag on for maybe the next couple.

Patrick Kane said fewer penalties are becoming a league norm.

It seems like a lot of teams are becoming more disciplined, maybe more accustomed to the rules, he said. If you take bad penalties youll sit a few shifts. Weve been really good as far as not taking penalties.

There may be something to that. But one thing remains certain: stay out of the box, improve your chances of winning. Just look at the leagues top four in low penalty minutesgame:

Team PIMG Record

Chicago 7.7 4-1-2

Washington 8.1 7-0-0

Colorado 8.5 6-2-0

Detroit 9.0 5-1-0

And this is coming from a Blackhawks team that made a concerted effort and deals to get more physical this season. Theyve done that, but theyve nevertheless avoided major penalties.

We have more guys who are more physical this year, but that doesnt give anybody a green light to take penalties just because were being more physical or harder to play against, coach Joel Quenneville said. I think the last few years weve been aware of what the standard is and adapting to that is how we want to play.

Shootout work

The Blackhawks are 0 for 6 in two shootouts this early season, so it was one of the first drills they did on Monday morning. Patrick Kane said perhaps they need to just take a simpler approach.

Sometimes you have so many moves in your head you think can work, maybe you have to just try to stick with one, maybe see what the goalies give you, said Kane, who doesnt foresee this being a long-term issue. Its a matter of time before we get better at that. Theres too much talent in the room and too many players who should score who arent. Well be fine.

Quenneville said the coaches are discussing everything from shooting order to shooters to figure out a solution.

Its something you want to talk about but you dont want guys having more anxiety, he said. Their strength is being comfortable. Its a recent trend; were not as effective as we were. Were visiting all phases. When things dont work we look at options.

Briefly

Corey Crawford will start against Anaheim on Tuesday night.

Jamal Mayers celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday.

Brandon Saad, who started this season with the Blackhawks, was named the Ontario Hockey Leagues player of the week on Monday. In three games with the Saginaw Spirit last week, Saad tallied six goals and four assists, as well as a plus-2 rating.