Blackhawks find perfection in killing penalties during postseason
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org
The Blackhawks have the same attitude about their postseason penalty-killing streak as Babe Ruth had about his then-unheard-of home-run total: ‘‘I’ll hit ’em, and you count ’em.’’
After killing all three of the Detroit Red Wings’ power plays in a 4-1 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series, the Blackhawks are 20-for-20 on the penalty kill. The only remaining playoff participants even close to that percentage are the Penguins (23-for-25, .920) and Kings (18-for-20, .900).
Not that they’re counting.
‘‘We didn’t become aware of it until you just said that,’’ Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘We’re not thinking about streaks. The same thing went for our win streak this year [an NHL-record 24 games without a regulation loss to start the season]. When things are going well, you keep working hard at it. You don’t get satisfied with what you’re doing. You keep looking for ways to improve.’’
Fourth-liners Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik, who team with defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith, are the specialists who do most of the dirty work on the penalty kill. Both envision doing more but have embraced their role as penalty killers.
‘‘That’s something we’ve worked on this year from the start,’’ said Kruger, a 22-year-old Swede. ‘‘It’s a good challenge for us to do something good for the team. After you kill off a penalty, it feels good.’’
Kruger said he admired former Hawks and New Jersey Devils center John Madden, a penalty-killing specialist who not coincidentally played on three Stanley Cup champions. In fact, Madden played the same role on the Hawks’ 2010 Cup winner as Kruger does this season.
‘‘[Madden] was always great on the Devils in that job,’’ Kruger said. ‘‘He was an awesome penalty killer.’’