05/30/2010 2:46 PM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
CHICAGO -- The fans still boo lustily inside United Center whenever one of their beloved hometown Blackhawks heads to the penalty box.
The booing is even more pronounced in games like Saturday night's Stanley Cup Final series opener against Philadelphia, in which the Hawks won 6-5 despite not getting a single power play to the Flyers' four.
The way that Chicago's penalty-killing unit is playing, though, there's a decent chance the boos will turn to cheers. Usually the penalty is killed or the Hawks pot a shorthanded goal. This game was a perfect example. The Hawks killed off three of four Flyers' power plays and also got their League-leading fourth shorthanded score of the playoffs when center Dave Bolland stole the puck in the first and scored on a breakaway to make it 2-1 Chicago.
"We're pretty confident," Bolland said of the Hawks' PK. "We've got great penalty-killers on this team. We've got John Madden, who's been in this League for how long? We've got (Jonathan) Toews and a lot of guys that can help out. It's a big thing for us."
That's putting it mildly. The Hawks came into this game killing penalties at 86.6 percent, which ranked third in the League and just behind the Flyers' 87 percent.
Despite giving up a goal to Scott Hartnell on the power play in the first that tied the game 2-2, the Hawks were solid overall down a skater. It's also starting to be a little routine seeing a Hawks' defender swiping a puck at the blue line and skating in alone on opposing goaltender for shorthanded attempts.
That's how both of Bolland's shorties have started -- with great anticipation and aggressiveness.
"(Braydon) Coburn was fumbling it," Bolland said. "I just sort of poked it right (away from) him. If I see the guy fumbling that puck, I'm going to go for it. We've done a great job on the PK, and we've got to keep going. We've got to stay out of that box, as well."
Forward Patrick Sharp said the Hawks aren't necessarily looking to score every time they're a skater short -- but it is in the back of their minds when they press up near the blue line and start thinking a pass or two ahead.
"We're in good spots at good times and our coaches let us take those opportunities if we get 'em," he said. "On Bolly's goal today, he just anticipated the play. That's a big thing. I wouldn't say (we're) cheating, but we're anticipating and making good plays that lead to offense at the other end."
In this playoffs, Chicago has gotten two shorthanded goals by Bolland -- both on breakaways -- to go with one by Sharp and the biggest by Patrick Kane in Game 5 of the conference quarterfinals against Nashville. That one went in with just 13.6 second left in regulation and sent the game into overtime -- where Marian Hossa won it with a rebound tally after just getting out of the box for the penalty that led to Kane's heroics.
Still, defenseman Duncan Keith senses the Hawks are playing with fire a little too often by putting the penalty kill on the ice with undisciplined penalties.
"Ideally, we'd like to limit our penalties," said Keith, who assisted on Kris Versteeg's even-strength goal midway through the second that tied it 4-4. "It's something we talk about and sooner or later we've got to stop doing it. We're the ones taking penalties. We're the ones going to box. We've got to do a better job staying out of it."
But if they don't it doesn't necessarily mean the worst-case scenario. Twice in this postseason now, the Hawks have won a game in which they didn't draw a single penalty and scored shorthanded.
"I think we're fairly confident," Sharp said of the PK. "We've been doing a good job all season and in the playoffs. It's nice to know that even if you get a little deflated when you take the penalty, you can answer back with the penalty kill."