Blocked shots playing key role in Blackhawks' success

Blocked shots playing key role in Blackhawks' success

Highlights: Blackhawks shut out Blue Jackets

February 25, 2013, 7:30 pm
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Blocking shots is not a job for the faint of heart.

Postgame is likely filled with bumps, bruises and the occasional ice bag. Sometimes you can take those shots in bad places. We all saw how much Brent Seabrook was willing to prevent Ray Emery from facing a blast.

It’s a painful job, but somebody’s got to do it. And this season, the Blackhawks have been doing it pretty well.

The Blackhawks have three players in the league’s top 25 for blocked shots, including two in the top 10, which has been a big defensive help in their 15-0-3 run this season. Seabrook has 47 blocks, good for eighth in the league. Niklas Hjalmarsson has 46 – including six in the Blackhawks’ 1-0 victory over Columbus on Sunday – for 10th-best in the NHL. Johnny Oduya comes in 23rd, with 37 blocked shots.

It’s a boon for Blackhawks goaltenders, as the guys in front of them have given them the chance to see the ones they can stop, and have stopped others before they’ve gotten near the net. So is there some special formula, some technique in blocking shots?

“You just try to be in the shooting lane, just close your eyes, and hope that it hits you. If not, it’s going to be dangerous,” Hjalmarsson said after his six-block night on Sunday. “That’s a big part of my game, especially on the penalty kill. You’ve got to be in the shooting lane. I had a couple of big blocks today, and that’s my way to contribute to the team.”

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Coach Joel Quenneville said there’s a dedication that comes with the shot-blocking job.

“Position’s key. So is fearlessness of some big shooters,” Quenneville said. “You have guys who hit one-timers and some of those, I’m sure, they hope don’t hit them. At the same time you have to put yourself in the lanes and that’s helped with the penalty killing this year, be it a key block or denying the shooting lanes.

“It’s part of the experience of playing defense and positioning yourself prior to the shot and sometimes you get hit,” Quenneville continued. “But you can get hit in less compromising areas. That’s important, as well.”