It’s been reasonably agreed upon that the Blackhawks were meant to have a decent team on the ice, but to not push it too far when it came to getting too many wins. After all, there’s quite a bit of talent in the 2024 NHL Draft.
So when they’re struggling to score goals or have a power play that ranks 30th in the league, there’s hardly as much of a shrug. But there’s one that certainly pops out. The Blackhawks penalty kill is currently ranked sixth in the league–a unit that has suffocated opposing teams whether they’re shooting or passing.
Last night’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights was an example of that, none more than when they snuffed out two chances late in the third that became the difference in the game.
Seth Jones, Reese Johnson Key in Blackhawks Critical Penalty Kill
There is a contingency of voices agitated that Jones isn’t putting up the points as a defenseman with a cap hit of $9.5M should. But what needs to be pointed out is that he has been worth every penny on the kill and also on the power play.
Jones has the uncanny knack to disrupt chances. On the kill, he’s often blocking shots or passes at high clips.
A sequence in the power play after Wyatt Kaiser’s delay of game penalty is prove positive of this. The Golden Knights had a minute and eleven seconds of sustained pressure in Chicago’s zone. They were close a couple times, but the coverage by that unit kept them at bay–specifically Jones. Jack Eichel could not get a clean shooting lane, and trying to pass proved problematic as Vegas was continuously kept to the outside.
Credit Taylor Raddysh, Jarred Tinordi, and Reese Johnson–all of whom had active sticks and were aggressive in an attempt to keep Vegas from setting up.
The most clear cut example? Eichel was blocked from any shot because of Jones’ presence in the slot. It caused Eichel to drift lower into the left circle, which allowed Johnson to disrupt the chance. He batted the puck into the corner, and Vegas had to set up again. The key in all of it is that the unit allowed little space for Vegas to move. Eichel desperately wanted to feed Mark Stone, but the chance wasn’t there. Neither were the shooting lanes.
It led to a little helter-skelter at times, but but it ended with Jones clearing the zone.
There’s certainly room for improvement in several areas for the Blackhawks. But the penalty kill has been terrific early on–and the victory over Vegas showed its importance once again.