DETROIT — Niklas Hjalmarsson ran through the laundry list of what worked for the Chicago Blackhawks in their victory over Boston. Last but not least was something dear to him and a few more of his short-handed specialist teammates.
“The penalty kill was a big part of our win,” he said.
Indeed it was, as the Blackhawks killed all three of the Bruins’ opportunities on Sunday. And it was another indication that maybe, just maybe, the Blackhawks’ kill is trending in the right direction.
We’ve talked a lot about the penalty kill this season, mostly in the negative. But in recent outings the Blackhawks’ kill has been doing its job more than the opposite. Marcus Kruger said the team takes every positive they can from every good outing, including Sunday’s against Boston.
“We need to start somewhere, and we’ve talked about it a lot. The last game was good, but we need to get back on it and be good over time,” Marcus Kruger said. “That’s what we try to work on from here.”
The Blackhawks’ kill is still ranked 29th in the league, that overall result is probably a bit skewed. Let’s break it down into two (sort-of) halves, shall we?
In the first 26 games of the season, the Blackhawks erased just 54 of the 73 power plays they faced (73.97 percent). In their last 25 games, they’ve killed off 61 of 76, or 80.26 percent. That includes their last 10 games, in which they’ve nixed 20 of 24 (83.33 percent) power plays.
So, yes, there has been improvement, and for various reasons. The Blackhawks talked about how they weren’t aggressive enough on the kill earlier this season; they’ve remedied that in large measure. They’ve gotten better as clearing their zone, another struggling point early. And of course, goaltending is always your last line of defense. Corey Crawford’s been strong since coming off his groin injury – he was named the NHL’s third star of the previous week on Monday.
The Blackhawks’ all-around game last weekend, and the penalty kill has been doing the same. It’s progress, for sure. But Kruger said the Blackhawks aren’t going to be satisfied with recent results.
“The first few games, maybe, you can see that in the percentage,” Kruger said about the Blackhawks’ early season woes there. “But we need to look forward. We want to be more consistent and better in that area.”