Chicago Blackhawks: Faulty Penalty Kill Is an Issue but No Reason to Panic

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IOctober 10, 2013

Marcus Kruger could bolster the Blackhawks penalty kill unit with some more wins in the faceoff circle.
Marcus Kruger could bolster the Blackhawks penalty kill unit with some more wins in the faceoff circle.Bill Smith/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks penalty kill was one of the NHL's best over the course of last season. Through their first three games in 2013-14, it is by far the league's worst.

A 1-1-1 record to open the season can be explained in part by the five power play goals Chicago has allowed. The 'Hawks 44.44 percent rate of killing penalties has taken the shine off of what has been an impressive effort when Chicago has the man advantage.

The inability to keep the opposition's power play unit off of the scoreboard has been evident in each contest. The Washington Capitals were able to stay in the game opening night, paced by a trio of power play goals. Tampa Bay converted on it's only opportunity last Saturday, allowing the Lightning to come away with an overtime victory.

The Blackhawks' defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night was more about the defense getting burned in the closing seconds. Nonetheless, Chicago was shorthanded twice and gave up a goal, a second-period deflection by David Backes.

There is plenty of time for the penalty kill to even things out this season. However, when you've given up more goals than you've prevented, the PK unit has to be considered an issue.

There has been turnover on the 'Hawks. Michael Frolik is the name that jumps out as a player who thrived in shorthanded situations last season. However, holdover Marcus Kruger is also a factor in the struggles.

In short, Kruger is not winning defensive draws. Through Wednesday, Kruger is eight of 17 in faceoffs in his own zone. That 32 percent is far worse than his overall numbers.

Especially evident against Washington, but still noticeable, is the lack of aggression the PK unit has displayed. Opponents have had ample shooting lanes and the time to find them.

Coach Joel Quenneville kept Joakim Nordstrom on the opening night roster in part to be a penalty killer but played the rookie just five seconds in that role Wednesday. Michal Handzus was used heavily on the kill against the Blues, but depending on the veteran may cause him to wear down.

Quenneville may try some new faces on the kill. Swapping Nordstrom with Jeremy Morin is an idea. Of course, Morin had some problems in Rockford's opening weekend on the PK. Ben Smith, already in Chicago, could merit more shorthanded time.

Brandon Bollig was an excellent penalty killer in his time in Rockford. Would Quenneville be comfortable using his enforcer in that capacity?

We can hope that over the next few games things will even out on the penalty kill. Chicago has a big weekend as it hosts the Islanders and Sabres in back to back games. There is no need to run screaming through the streets. Just the same, it would be nice to see a stingier penalty kill starting Friday night.