The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks don’t have a lot of holes, but their inability to kill penalties has been a major one. They rank in the bottom five of the league in that regard, which is a startling decline from the shortened campaign when they were third with an 87.2% success rate.
They might have turned a corner though as they’ve shut the door the last 23 times they had to kill off a power play. Although if you ask Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, this turnaround has been a long time in the making.
“I thought it was trending (the right way) since we got off to that terrible start for a number of games,” Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “We had some games where the numbers didn’t reflect that we were doing the right things.”
Part of the reason they struggled out of the gate was because they traded away Michael Frolik, who was a big part of their penalty kill last season. Marcus Kruger added that the penalty-kill units weren’t comfortable and the players didn’t trust each other initially. That’s changed as the campaign’s progressed.
Of course, the Blackhawks recent success in this category has been largely wasted due to their 1-2-3 run. They’ll try to shake off their recent slump when they face the Los Angeles Kings tonight.
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.
John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.
Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.
Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?
For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting upJohn Tavares.
The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.