The Blackhawks penalty kill was a thing of beauty in the early season. Its ability to shut opponents down, and score a few short-handed goals to boot, had it ranked in the top five in October.
Then November hit and well, lets just say it dropped. A lot. But in recent games the Blackhawks kill has had the killer instinct again. And on Thursday night, it came up really big at a critical time.
The Blackhawks killed nearly two minutes of a 5 on 3 en route to their 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday. It was part of a 6-for-6 penalty kill performance for the Blackhawks, who are 17 of 21 on the kill in their last eight games.
The Islanders 5 on 3 came moments after they scored their first goal to cut the Blackhawks lead to 2-1. The Isles had the momentum and 1:56 on the two-man advantage; but despite four shots on goal, they came up empty.
We got six or seven clears in that time, goaltender Ray Emery said. So thats huge when those guys can put that effort in.
The Blackhawks penalty kill is getting better. No, its certainly not top five in the NHL anymore. Its more like 27th. But considering this teams kill was languishing in last for weeks, its recent performances are encouraging.
Our penalty killing been good for us lately, Duncan Keith said. Its something weve talked about, taking pride in that. Its starting to pay off and help win us hockey games.
The Blackhawks' coaching staff will be intact for the 2016-17 season.
Two weeks after Patrick Roy abruptly resigned as head coach, the Colorado Avalanche officially picked Jared Bednar to be his replacement over Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, who was among the favorites for the coaching vacancy.
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Bednar has no National Hockey League coaching experience, but did guide the Columbus Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate to a 15-2 postseason record last season en route to the franchise's first Calder Cup championship.
Retaining Dineen is good news for the Blackhawks, who start training camp next month, but it goes without saying that Dineen is certainly deserving of a second crack at a head coaching position in the near future.
Dineen, Mike Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville will enter their third season together after helping the Blackhawks capture a Stanley Cup in their first year as a group in 2015.
Jonathan Toews was named alternate captain of Team Canada on Thursday for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
Sidney Crosby was named Team Canada’s captain. Crosby, who claimed his second Stanley Cup in June, was also Team Canada’s captain en route to the gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
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Toews, who has been the Blackhawks’ captain since the 2008-09 season, was also alternate captain of Canada’s 2014 Olympic squad. Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens will serve as Team Canada’s other alternate captain.
Duncan Keith will not be part of the Blackhawks’ World Cup of Hockey contingent after all.
Keith will focus on improving his health rather than play for Team Canada in the tournament, which takes place next month in Toronto. The Blackhawks released a statement regarding Keith on Wednesday afternoon.
"As Duncan continues offseason rehabilitation on the right knee injury that he sustained last season, we understand his decision not to participate in next month’s World Cup of Hockey," team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in the statement. "We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury."
Keith had surgery on that knee last October and was sidelined about one month.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will take Keith’s place.