CHICAGO – If the outcome of the Detroit’s series with Chicago is going to come down to special teams, the Wings better figure out a way to crack the Blackhawks’ penalty kill and they better do it quick.
The Blackhawks killed off all three of the Wings’ power play chances in Game 1, making them 20-for-20 on the penalty kill this postseason.
“When you see them play against Minnesota you look at it one way and then when you see them play against yourselves, we’ve got to be dangerous in that area,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
On the Wings’ three man-advantage chances, in Game 1 Wednesday, they recorded just four shots on goal.
“They’re really good team on the PK and in general,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “They make it really hard on the team. We did get off the shots, but they do a pretty good job of staying in the lanes. It’s hard to get the pucks to the net. We have to find a way because we have guys in there and get a greasy one.”
The Blackhawks are the only team in the postseason to have yet to allow a power-play goal.
“They’re playing well, give them credit,” Kronwall said. “That was a good effort by them, not so much on our part. We have to do a way better job, not only on the power play department, but also 5-on-5.”
Detroit also had difficulty in the regular season on the power play against the Blackhawks, going 1-for-15 in four games.
“We’re not thinking about streaks,” Chicago’s Jonathan Toews said. “When things are going well you keep working hard at it, you don’t get satisfied, keep looking for ways to improve. That’s what we’ve done with our penalty kill. We definitely want to stay out of the box against (Detroit) because that’s how they can gain momentum, by being on the power play, they can create a lot of chances no matter what we do, but we know it’s an important part of our game against Detroit.”
The Blackhawks’ penalties that led to Detroit power plays were for tripping, boarding and delay of game. Two of the three infractions were whistled on Andrew Shaw.
“They work good in a group of four,” Patrick Eaves said. “If one guy goes, everyone goes. That makes it difficult on our power play when it’s all-out pressure like that. We have to relieve it and we’ll be fine.”
And of the opposition’s 20 tries on the power play, Chicago has only allowed 20 shots to get through to goalie Corey Crawford.
“Maybe confidence is part of it,” Toews said. “We’re used to seeing guys like Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya or Brent Seabrook or Duncan Keith block all the shots but a lot of our forwards are getting in the action now, getting into shooting lanes. That’s the type of thing we need to be doing in the playoffs. So we’re taking that up another level and our goaltending has been great. Some of those games against Minnesota, we seemed to go to the box two, three, four times in a period when we’re trying to protect a one-goal lead. First and foremost we want to avoid being in the penalty box all the time, but if that’s the situation, we’re confidence we can do the job.”
Forwards Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik are two reasons why Chicago’s penalty kill has been so successful.
The pair sees very limited ice time, but a third of it is killing penalties.
“They’ve been real solid all year,” Quenneville said. “When they started together at the beginning of the year, it was kind of a work in progress and I just thought they progressed in a real nice way. They started first and third on each kill, blocking shots, getting in lanes doing all the right things, good pace, got ‘em a little bit more of a role, got ‘em more ice time, got ‘em more quality ice time.”