Analysis

Blackhawks need Adjustments on Penalty Kill as Soon as Possible

Dec 18, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; during the second period at the American Airlines Center.
Dec 18, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; during the second period at the American Airlines Center. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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The Blackhawks' bad special teams and lack of discipline lost them two valuable points in the standings vs Dallas.

The Blackhawks have a weird habit as of late: a lack of discipline. Add this to their faltering penalty kill, it is only a recipe for disaster. This team has been taking a lot of penalties in recent memory BUT they also draw a lot of penalties. The problem? Only the other team profits off of it.

Here is why I say this:

In the game against the Dallas Stars, the Blackhawks went 5/8 on the penalty kill while scoring once in three tries on the powerplay. Against Nashville, an OT loss, they went 3/5 on the PK and 0/5 on the PP. Overall, they finished their two games against divisional opponents with a 8/13 total (61.5% kill rate) and they finished with a 12.5% success rate on the powerplay. The powerplay has been picking it up a bit as of late, however, with a 50% success rate against the Washington Capitals. They get their chances on the penalties they draw, so their powerplay is not a worry.

Ideally, for a NHL team that hopes to qualify for the postseason, a PP rate of approximately 20-25% and a PK of around 80% is advised. This way, your are not likely to lose the special teams battle with an above average PP and an average PK. However, if one stat such as your PP is slacking off, your PK has to pick it up. For example, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a horrible PP rate of 15.29%, but they make up for that stat with a 92.11% kill rate (via HockeyReference).

What is this jumbled paragraph of statistics trying to say? With your penalty kill struggling, discipline should be the team's forte, right? I mean, if your penalty kill doesn't seem to be able to kill of the penalty you took, the team should be prepared for that and not take any unnecessary calls, right?

Well, in the last three games, the Blackhawks took 16 penalties. At just over 5 per game, that's not a good sign. ESPECIALLY when your PK operated at a 62.5% successful kill rate. Patrick Kane took an ill-advised hooking penalty in overtime against the Stars that wound up becoming the GWG against them. Something that I have noticed is that when the Blackhawks stop hitting the opposition, their penalty minutes skyrocket. Why? Because the lack of playing the body in favor of playing the puck results in avoidable penalties.

The team should return to their checking style of play instead of taking five penalties a game. Sure, with Alex Debrincat, Kirby Dach, and Dylan Strome as your young core, exposing them to a physical, grueling 60-minute system may not be the best way to go. However, with so many grinders in the lineup, the Blackhawks really have no excuse for their eleven hits in their last outing.

To conclude, this Blackhawks team HAS to stop taking so many penalties due to their lacking penalty kill. Something about it has to change, such as their overaggressive pinches when the opposition has a wide-open man on the wing (leaving Alex Ovechkin open was a bad idea). Taking an average of slightly over 5 penalties per game with just a 62.5% success rate, the Blackhawks are lucky that they got out of the stretch with a 1-0-2 record.

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