The blocks were coming at the right time. The clears were strong. And if shots did get through to Corey Crawford, he made sure they didn’t get through him.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was strong on Monday night, as it nixed four St. Louis Blues advantages en route to a 2-0 victory in Game 3. The special-teams department that was such a mess for the Blackhawks to start the regular season is back to being the steady presence it was all of 2013.
The Blackhawks have allowed just one power-play goal in the 16 opportunities the Blues have had; that one was a devastating one, Vladimir Tarasenko’s game-tying goal at the end of Brent Seabrook’s five-minute charging penalty in Game 2. But the Blackhawks have kept it from hurting them more than that.
“You don’t want to give up the goal in the third like we did in (Game 2),” Michal Handzus said. “But Crow played great. He stepped up in big moments in the third, and the guys played like they needed (to play).”
It was a good combination, especially in Game 3. Crawford challenged himself to be better after Game 2 and was, especially on the power play. It’s not like the Blues didn’t have their chances; they had seven shots on those four power plays. St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock was happy with the Blues’ chances, saying the kills just have the edge right now.
“The PK on both sides has a bead on the power play,” he said. “I think whichever team controls the frustration on the power play’s maybe going to have success. We've been fortunate. We got the one big goal on the 6-on-4 (in Game 2). That's kind of been a big difference for us so far. That saved us. I really liked our power play (Monday). I really liked it. We made a lot of adjustments. For having like 10 minutes of practice, I thought our guys really did a good job on the power play.”
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill passed the test on Monday. Marcus Kruger, like Handzus, gave Crawford a good deal of credit.
“We gave up a late goal there in Game 2, but I think it's been all right,” Kruger said. “And when it hasn't, Crow has stepped up big and saved us a couple of times too.”
Would the Blackhawks like their power play to be as proficient as their penalty kill is stingy? Sure. But the Blackhawks have found postseason success without a power play; several teams have. Keeping that steady penalty kill might loom larger.
“We have to keep doing that,” Handzus said. “It’s going to be critical the next few games.”