Playing shorthanded has not been a daunting task for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
Their penalty kill has been stellar, and it was that again nixing all four of the Minnesota Wild’s power plays in Game 1 on Tuesday night. Still, the Blackhawks want to be very careful about the foolish penalties, the ones that drive coaches crazy. And they want to make sure they don’t give the Wild a chance to get their power play going.
The Blackhawks will try to go up 2-0 when they host the Wild in Game 2 at the United Center on Friday night. They’ll also try to keep their discipline. Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t mind the penalties that come out of physical play – as long as they’re not borne of cheap and dirty plays, of course. But it’s those lazy, catching-up-to-the-opponent penalties – hooking, slashing, etc., -- that he wants to see less of.
“Discipline’s key,” Quenneville said. “Let’s make sure the penalties we take are good ones, like if it’s a (stopping) a scoring chance or a hard hit. But not the cheap ones, in and around the hands, hooking because you’re not getting position. We were careless in some of the ones we did take. We’ve been good about that all year, but moving forward, no unnecessary penalties is key.”
True, the lazy, careless penalties haven’t been part of the Blackhawks’ repertoire this season. They’ve been smart, they’ve rarely chased, so there’s been no need. And with it being one game, it’s still not a big concern for the Blackhawks. The other reason they’re not incredibly worried is their penalty kill. It’s been great. Consistently great. So even if there are issues, the Blackhawks have canceled them out.
“There are gong to be penalties called. Our penalty kill’s going to do the job. It’s been doing it all season,” Bryan Bickell said. “There are going to be calls. Hopefully we can just kill them off.”
Patrick Kane agreed.
“There are a couple of penalties we can probably avoid, but the PK’s been good all year,” he said. “Sometimes we get momentum off those (PK) situations. We want to stay off the box but if it happens four or five times, we’re just going to have to kill those off.”
And as far as walking that physical fine line – it’s now a topic, since the Blackhawks dished out 40 hits in Game 1 -- Bickell said the Blackhawks can do that.
“The physicality steps up a level in the playoffs. Referees are going to be tight; they’re not going to wait a couple games into the series to make calls. So you just go out there, work hard and, for me, just finish my checks.”
The Blackhawks look to be a more disciplined team come Game 2. They’ll keep the lazy penalties to a minimum. But if they have to go on the kill, well, they’ve done just fine there.