CHCAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wouldn’t go as far as to say his team’s penalty killing problems were solved, but he likes where it is going.
The Blackhawks are on their most successful penalty-kill stretch this season. After allowing two power-play goals to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 14, the Blackhawks have killed off 26 of their last 29 penalties over the last nine games and haven’t allowed multiple power-play goals. They’ve raised their penalty-kill percentage from 73.1 to 76.7 during that period.
“I know that we’ve had a nice stretch,” Quenneville said after Sunday’s morning skate at the United Center. “We haven’t taken many penalties, which helps. I think the movements have been better up ice; our entries more predictable. I think we’re getting a chance to get more pressure on their entries and clears and not letting them get set up. It’s an ongoing challenge for us, but I’ve seen progress.”
Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus thinks one reason for the penalty kill’s improvement is he and Marcus Kruger have developed better chemistry. Handzus previously said he thought they were out of synch at times.
“With Kruges, he’s been great,” Handzus said. “We just talk about it. Obviously, a lot different things we got to talk about. Now we know more what to do and other guys do. That really helps.”
The Blackhawks’ recent success has come against some of the league’s best and worst power-play units. Their biggest accomplishments were holding the St. Louis Blues, who are ranked fourth in power-play percentage, to one goal on four power-play chances and the Nashville Predators, who are ranked seventh, to one goal on seven opportunities.
The San Jose Sharks, the Blackhawks’ opponent on Sunday, are ranked 11th with a 19.0 power-play percentage.
Handzus thinks the penalty kill still has room to improve.
“Obviously we want to keep going and get better,” Handzus said. “Still sometimes we’re giving up chances we don’t want to. We know we have a good team, we have a good PK unit.
“We didn’t do a lot of stuff, details, we should have at the beginning, and now it’s getting more consistent. We got to keep going. Obviously our goal is to be the best penalty killers. I think the forwards up front are getting better helping the D a little bit more and hopefully we can get better.”