When a team’s major flaw is all over the sports page, you know there’s a problem. In this case, the penalty kill of the Chicago Blackhawks has popped up in the media as a major problem that the Blackhawks will have to fix.
Prior to the game with the Dallas Stars on December 10, the Blackhawks were ranked 29th in the NHL with a 73.3 penalty kill percentage. The Stanley Cup team from 2013 had a PK of 87.2 percent. It’s obvious just looking at these stats that if the Hawks want to make another deep run in the playoffs, the penalty kill will have to change.
The 2013 team had Michael Frolik, who teamed up with Marcus Kruger to make one heck of a penalty kill duo. Now Frolik is doing his thing for the Winnipeg Jets. Salary cap issues have not helped at all.
At the beginning of the season, it wasn’t that big a deal. Their PK was atrocious against the Washington Capitals, who have one of the best power play units in the league. But if you give Alex Ovechkin too much room, he will make you pay like he did during that game. Let’s not forget Mikhail Grabovski. The PK has also failed the team in big games against the St Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild, among other teams.
It’s a definite concern that has head coach Joel Quenneville frustrated. “There are some things technically we need to do better. You want to make sure there’s some cohesiveness and get some confidence,” he told the media regarding the penalty kill. There’s a possibility that it might just take clearing the puck more during the penalty kill. Even though Frolik is gone, much of the PK unit is the same.
There is no excuse for the way the PK has been playing. The Blackhawks know this and took a step in the right direction when they kept one of the league’s worst power plays in the Florida Panthers off the scoreboard, also doing so with the Stars. Perhaps the Hawks have turned the corner, but only time will tell if they’ve found the right solution.