LOS ANGELES – Duncan Keith wasn’t mincing words on what he felt has been the Chicago Blackhawks’ biggest problem lately.
“Probably the story of the game, again, is us taking too many penalties and they’ve got a good power play,” he said following the Blackhawks’ 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. “No other way to put it, really. We have to stay out of the box.”
It’s easy to see his point, considering how the Kings’ power play continues its torrid playoff pace. It bested the Blackhawks’ penalty kill again on Saturday night, much like the Kings bested the Blackhawks overall in a 4-3 victory. That’s not the only issue, however. The Kings have had their share of penalties, too; trouble is the Blackhawks have done nothing with those opportunities.
It’s a much-discussed topic this time of the year: special teams can make or break you. Last spring the Blackhawks were vaunted penalty killers, stymieing team after team. They were that way for most of this postseason, too, until they ran into the Kings. Los Angeles has three power-play goals against them over the past two games, and Drew Doughty’s goal on Saturday night, which ended up being the game-winner, came just seconds after another Kings power play ended.
“We’ve talked about it; they’re penalties we can’t take,” Keith said. “There are some you have to take sometimes. Sometimes it’s an accident. But they’re scoring on the power play. They have a lot of good players out there. We might want to stay out of the box.”
Michal Handzus, whose concealing-the-puck penalty resulted in both a Jonathan Toews short-handed goal and a Slava Voynov power-play goal, agreed.
“I think it’s been (a problem) the whole playoffs. In the regular season we didn’t take as many as in the playoffs,” he said. “I think special teams right now, we need to get better on the PK for sure and not get scored on every game. I think that’s going to be key for us.”
Again, that’s true. Again, though, the penalties and the ensuing kills are only part of the problem. While that has started to fail, the Blackhawks’ power play continues to sputter. They have two power-play goals in the past three games but went 0-for-4 on the advantage on Saturday night. The Blackhawks also have just one power-play goal on the road this postseason, and that came in Game 1 vs. the St. Louis Blues.
The Blackhawks were awarded three of their four power-play opportunities over a seven-minute span in the second period. They all fizzled.
“Our power play tonight didn’t help us. Difference in the game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We generated enough (advantages) in that second period to put ourselves in a good spot. We not only didn’t generate much but we lost momentum off those power plays."
As has been written before, a so-so power play doesn’t necessarily spell doom for a postseason team. The Blackhawks, Kings and Boston Bruins all won the Stanley Cup recently despite mediocre power plays. The 5-on-5 scoring and penalty killing, obviously, could buoy the lack of power play goals. The Blackhawks are struggling at both right now. Yes, they want to take fewer penalties; the Kings are making them pay when they do. But they also need to cultivate more payback on the other special-teams side.