The Chicago Blackhawks penalty kill was ranked in the top three in the NHL for the first half of the season. In the last few games, however, the Blackhawks penalty kill has faltered to sixth in the league.
Could this be a problem? Yes.
But don't panic—just yet.
In the 2011-2012 season, the Blackhawks penalty kill ranked 27th. But the PK has been a surprising strength for the Blackhawks for the majority of the 2013 season. Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik's chemistry, Johnny Oduya’s new-found success and solid goaltending contributed to the new look for the Blackhawks unit.
Every aspect went right for the ‘Hawks, in regard to the special teams unit that damaged the team last year.
So, what has gone wrong in the last few games?
Lately, it seems like too many pucks are getting to the net, and the ‘Hawks are failing to clear the puck from the defensive zone.
Regarding the Hawks’ new struggles, Patrick Kane thought that the busy schedule could be a large part of their problem.
"We've had a lot of games in the past 11 days,” Kane said after the Blackhawks 6-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. “Maybe there's a little bit of an excuse there, but for us, hopefully we can build on those last two periods," (via Chris Kuc Chicago Tribune).
The Blackhawks had three days of rest and still allowed a power-play goal against the Columbus Blue Jacket’s second-worst power-play unit in the NHL on Thursday night. It was the Blue Jacket’s power-play goal that allowed the 1-1 game to go to a shootout; the Blackhawks are quite lucky to come out on top.
The 'Hawks should be able to depend on their penalty kill to control the game, not shift the momentum. If fatigue is already a problem for the team, having a struggling PK certainly won't make the games any easier. More energy will be required to sustain one-goal leads and win in overtime.
The good thing is that the PK can’t get as bad as last season. Well, let’s hope not.
Let’s hope the penalty kill is just cooling off and settling down like the rest of the Blackhawks play after their historical winning streak.