Special team units are vital in hockey, it’s obvious. One faulty penalty kill can cost you a game, or a power play goal can turn momentum in your favor at any time. Teams with the higher percentages regarding special teams tend to be higher in the standings and find success. For the Chicago Blackhawks, they’re finding this out the hard way.
In the monstrous years the Chicago Blackhawks dominated the league, a major pin point of discussion was how they performed on special teams.
The ‘Hawks power play was never truly a powerhouse in itself, as it usually fell flat while the team looked better five-on-five. Many skeptics blamed poor coaching or bad communication, but the team usually got the job done as the games progressed.
For example, when the Chicago Blackhawks went 50-23-9 in 2016-17’, the Blackhawks power play was only 19th in the league with 42 goals on 233 chances. However, their biggest relying factor was the penalty kill, which ultimately won the team games.
Throughout the previous Stanley Cup winning years, the Blackhawks found success while producing five-on-five, but defending well when on the penalty kill. As mentioned on Twitter, a fan replied to our account with a fabulous statistic:
This isn’t to say that the penalty kill is more important than the power play.
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Rather, it’s the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks have simply played well enough offensively at even strength where they didn’t need a strong power play. Instead, it was their fruitful and occasionally dominate penalty kill who was responsible for bailing out the team.
It was a formula that worked, and ultimately brought them to the heights of three Stanley Cup Championships.
This season, however, we haven’t seen our penalty kill defend much, and it’s been dreadful for the ‘Hawks and their path to redemption after their poor start.
The Blackhawks currently sit as the leagues worst penalty kill unit, and it showed in the 2019 Winter Classic. Chicago was absolutely dominant throughout most of the game, but fell flat on two of the four goals against on the PK due to insufficiency.
The Boston Bruins were given blatant opportunities and capitalized. With the Bruins 4th best power play against the league’s worst penalty kill, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict what could go wrong.
The Chicago Blackhawks have become a better team than they were in November. They’ve found identity and are progressing. In their past ten games, they’re 6-3-1 and have won five of their last seven games.
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In the games they’re losing, it’s oftentimes errors on the penalty kill throughout the game that ultimately drag this team down. If they want success, they’re going to need to focus attention on this penalty kill and revamp strategies in order to find some light.
If there is light, they can most certainly find it.