Yes, the drama in the first two games of the Chicago Blackhawks-Phoenix Coyotes series has been in the edge-of-your-seat department, but one thing better improve if the Hawks want to go far in the playoffs. Their play on the penalty kill in front of Corey Crawford has been abysmal, just as it was for most of the regular season.
The penalty kills that went against the Hawks in Game 2 won’t get as much discussion because they won, but the team won’t blame the officials. However, they better kill some penalties with a little more urgency or they can kiss the Stanley Cup goodbye. Much maligned all year, the Hawks simply don’t know how -- or they simply refuse -- to push bodies from out in front of their goal crease. Every NHL goaltender would say the same thing: “Let me see the puck.”
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again despite getting the same negative result, then the Hawks’ penalty kill should have been institutionalized months ago.
Watch the replays of the two power-play goals by Phoenix on Saturday. On the first one, Antoine Vermette is simply standing in front of Crawford like an unmovable object because the defenders in the vicinity, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, aren’t paying him any attention. Raffi Torres did the honors on the second goal. The Hawks’ two defenders on either side of the Coyotes’ players are almost acting as bodyguards instead of trying to get them out of the way.
If Crawford was honest he’d admit there is too much “easy” traffic in front of him. Give them a nudge, a whack, a push; just something, anything. In fact, Duncan Keith did whack Lauri Korpikoski during one man-advantage attempt and he’s injured because of it. It’s better than nothing. Korpikoski was useless for the rest of his time on the ice during that power play.
If it’s a strategy to let that man stay uncovered in front of the Hawks goalie then it failed a long time ago. If the players don’t recognize, or refuse to do something, about the easy scoring chances a player in front of the goalie creates, then they aren’t being coached well enough. Either way, it’s on Quenneville to fix the problem -- and fast.