The Chicago Blackhawks head to the penalty kill, a special-teams situation that was quite the boon for them, and a bane for opponents, last season. Within those two minutes, they give up a goal, sometimes in alarmingly fast fashion. It’s strange. It’s bizarre. It’s very un-Blackhawks-like.
But as we’ve repeated a few times already, this is not last season. And this penalty kill is a prime reminder that it isn’t.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill continues to sputter, as it began and ended Saturday night ranked 30th (aka last) in the league. While they kept themselves in last night’s game (at the time) by killing off a long Wild 5-on-3, they nevertheless allowed another power-play goal earlier. And they allowed it in rapid fashion, again.
“I don’t know how many goals they’ve scored right off the faceoff. Bingo, bango, in your net, right off the bat,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to the Wild.
Indeed, that Wild goal came a mere five seconds after it went on the power play. Five seconds. We reviewed the goals the Blackhawks kill has allowed this season. If we’re counting correctly, the Blackhawks have allowed two within five seconds of their kill’s start. Three others came 23, 31 and 36 seconds into the job.
Faceoffs are certainly an issue. You don’t allow a goal five seconds in if you’re winning them. The Blackhawks have struggled in this category for a while now and it’s costing them, especially shorthanded.
But there are other factors, too. The Blackhawks’ lack of discipline is one of them. Be it from playing catch-up (those hooking, tripping and holding penalties) or frustration (high sticks), the Blackhawks are spending way too much time in the box. And the guys serving those penalties are their best penalty killers. Jonathan Toews has 12 penalty minutes this season. Marian Hossa took two Saturday night. Marcus Kruger took, in his words, “a really stupid one” to put the Wild on that 5-on-3 for 1:53.
“They called a lot of penalties tonight. Some were lack of discipline,” Quenneville said. “We took some careless ones tonight that led to them being on the power play and getting some momentum back in the game.”
The kill is a group of four players thinking and playing as one solid unit. It’s just not there for the Blackhawks right now. Shots are getting through, rebounds aren’t getting cleared or knocked out of harm’s way, and the goaltending isn’t coming up big enough as the last line of defense.
The Blackhawks will work through the kinks. The talent is there to get this done. They just have to be better.
“We had breakdowns, we had turnovers inside our zone, we had miscommunication and took some penalties we shouldn’t have taken…” Jonathan Toews said. “Our talent and ability is going to take over when the work ethic is there.”