Penalty kill gives Hawks new life
NEW YORK -- As it usually does when the Chicago Blackhawks score goals in bunches, the offense will get plenty of headlines in the team’s 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday, helping the team break a nine game losing streak.
But coach Joel Quenneville is quick to point out, the Hawks' defense, specifically the penalty killing, made the difference in the game.
“Our penalty killing was outstanding,” he said afterwards. “Probably the biggest area that got us the win tonight.”
New York was shut out on seven power play attempts encompassing 10:06 of playing time. The Rangers had five total shots on goal in those seven attempts. That’s as good as it gets.
“We changed a couple things,” goalie Corey Crawford said of the penalty kill. “It seems like we’re always in shooting lanes. It almost seems like we were pushing their players away from taking some shots. It seemed like before [Thursday] there were some open shots that teams had.”
Actually the Hawks made the changes before their last game in Nashville on Tuesday, but Crawford didn’t play in that game. Why they waited so long to tweak it is a legitimate question. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact they did it, and it helped break the skid.
“Denying the shot lanes or preventing them from even thinking of the shots,” Quenneville said. “Poitionally at the top was better.”
Forwards went at the Rangers point men in straight lines instead of looping-in, which allows for open shooting and passing lanes.
“It’s tweaking things and doing things differently,” Duncan Keith said. “And then executing it.”
Finally, the Hawks did both. It took too long in the streak to change things but as soon as they did the shots on goal came down and a close loss in Nashville was followed by a resounding win in New York.
• The Rangers were held to just 24 shots on net despite seven power play attempts. The Hawks held Nashville to just 19 on Tuesday.
• Jonathan Toews became the first Hawk to score on two penalty shots in the same season since 1935. In fact the Hawks haven’t had two different players score in the same year since ’35.
• “When your team is not winning, when you miss it, the alternative sometimes might put some hesitation in our game,” -- Quenneville, if Toews had missed on the penalty shot.
• “You can go across the board. The mentality, the confidence, the tension, the pressure. We all felt we need that next game,” --Quenneville, on the nine game losing streak.
• “We can feel good about it but we’re not out of the woods. It doesn’t take an analyst to look at the stats and the standings and realize we have to play like that down the stretch.” -- Patrick Sharp, on keeping it going.