Penalty killing has been key to Hawks' early success

Penalty killing has been key to Hawks' early success
February 13, 2013, 8:00 pm
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The roar went up when the Chicago Blackhawks killed off 64 seconds of an Anaheim Ducks 5-on-3, followed by the few ticks of the remaining 5-on-4. Another night, another penalty kill that kept the Blackhawks in a game, rather than cost them.

And while the Blackhawks still came away one point short Tuesday, their penalty kill remains their strength rather than the liability it once was.

The Blackhawks’ penalty kill is ranked second in the NHL right now, sporting a 91.5 percent success rate (four goals allowed the 47 times they’ve been shorthanded). Only the Boston Bruins at 93.5 percent are ahead of them. After giving up so much a man -- or two – down last season, the Blackhawks are stymieing opponents’ opportunities in this one.

So what’s been working on the Blackhawks’ kill? Johnny Oduya said it’s a number of factors.

“We try to make it easier now for ourselves, not run around so much. We play in a good position, that’s been a part of it, too,” Oduya said. “It’s just about having guys out there who want to work hard and take pride in killing penalties. That’s huge. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

Guys like Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith have long played that role. Forwards Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik, who would love to get their offense going more, are nevertheless embracing the penalty kill and have done well on it. Hjalmarsson and Kruger have been part of two big 5-on-3 kills for the Blackhawks this season, first in Minnesota and again Tuesday against the Ducks.

Frolik said keeping shifts short, if possible, helps.

“You just try to stay there short, keep the energy level high,” he said. “If you have higher energy you don’t make as many mistakes. So when you have a chance to change, you change and keep that energy going.”

Oh, and the guys between the pipes are important, too.

“Obviously goaltending is a big part of it. Both Ray (Emery) and (Corey Crawford) have been terrific this year, stopping the opportunities they do get.”

The Blackhawks’ penalty killers have been a big part of the team’s success this season. There are a lot of factors to making it work, but that work has paid off.