As the Blackhawks continue to look futile with a man advantage, the importance of special teams play when trying to win a Stanley Cup has come into focus for Chicago.
Could the Hawks’ achilles heel – a miserable powerplay – lead to an upset? History shows us it’s the penalty kill that’s more important to postseason success.
To say the Blackhawks have been pathetic on the powerplay lately is an understatement.
Since scoring two powerplay goals in an 8-1 win at Dallas on March 16 (13 games), the Blackhawks have converted only twice in 31 opportunities, and enter Monday’s action ranked 21st in the NHL (15.9 percent).
However, being ranked in the lower half of the league is nothing new to Cup champions.
None of the last four Stanley Cup champions – Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh – were ranked in the league’s upper half on powerplay during the regular season of their respective Cup-winning seasons.
- 2012 – Los Angeles – 17th – 16.9%
- 2011 – Boston – 20th – 16.2%
- 2010 – Blackhawks – 16th – 17.7%
- 2009 – Pittsburgh – 20th – 17.2%
As you can see, the success rate varied as did the overall rankings for these teams, but none of them was overwhelming on their powerplay.
Getting something – indeed anything – out of the powerplay at this stage in the season would be a huge positive for the Blackhawks as they chase home-ice throughout the postseason and the Presidents Trophy.
Since the last lockout, though, history shows that a dominant penalty kill is the more important of the two special teams. When we contrast the success these teams had while killing their opponents’ advantage, the theme becomes more clear which special teams unit carries more weight when chasing the Cup.
Here are the last four champions and the current Blackhawks (followed by the number of short-handed goals scored):
- 2013 – Blackhawks – 5th – 85.8% (5 shg)
- 2012 – Los Angeles – 4th – 87.0% (9 shg)
- 2011 – Boston – 16th – 82.6% (11 shg)
- 2010 – Blackhawks – 5th – 85.0% (13 shg)
- 2009 – Pittsburgh – 8th – 82.7% (7 shg)
If we look back and include the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings (8th – 84.0% – 5 shg), four of the last five champions have ranked in the league’s top ten in penalty killing. Boston’s 2010-11 season was a true outlier; they were mediocre on both special teams throughout that regular season.
Over the same 13-game stretch of powerplay failure, the Hawks’ penalty kill unit has been exceptional, killing 25 of 26 (96.2 percent).