GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Blackhawks didn’t quite know what to expect without Patrick Kane in the lineup Friday against the Coyotes.
They knew they couldn’t replace his versatility on the ice, but were hoping they could get by just this one game without one of their most dynamic players.
The Hawks couldn’t, falling 2-0 to the Coyotes to conclude their road trip 3-1-2, and head into the Olympic break with a bit of a sour taste in their mouths. It was the first time the Hawks were shut out this season.
Much maligned earlier this season, the Blackhawks' penalty killing seemed to have hit its stride over the last month. Entering Friday’s game, the Blackhawks had killed 33 of their last 34 penalties.
But the penalty kill failed the Blackhawks on Friday and allowed the Coyotes to open up a 2-0 lead after two periods. For the night, The Blackhawks were 2-for-5 on the penalty kill.
In the first period, Keith Yandle beat Corey Crawford’s stick hand with a slap shot just 8 seconds after Brandon Bollig earned a tripping penalty at 1:01.
“The guys did a good job getting in front and making it hard for Crawford to see,” Yandle said.
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks killed off a 5-on-3 penalty against the Ducks for 40 seconds, but when faced with a full 2 minutes of 5-on-3, the penalty kill couldn’t quite hold up in the second period Friday.
Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata fired a wrist shot that glided through Crawford’s legs and found the back of the net at 18:29.
The 5-on-3 came about after Brandon Saad was whistled for interference on Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith and Michal Rozsival was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct at 17:46.
The Coyotes overwhelmed the Blackhawks early on, gaining a 9-1 shot advantage, but the Blackhawks got in rhythm after that – they just couldn’t get anything past Smith.
After two periods, the Hawks had 21 shots and nothing would go in, not even a point blank slap shot from Patrick Sharp off a deflected puck.
Despite the loss, the Hawks could point to their penalty kill as a reason for their recent success.
Their efficiency, outside of Friday, helped raise their once-penalty penalty-kill percentage to 80.2 percent. That’s still in the bottom third of the league, but Jonathan Toews said the Hawks can’t get caught up with where they stand in the season statistics. What matters is how they are playing now.
“We just had a rough start. It kind of snowballed in the wrong direction,” Toews said Thursday. The more pressure we put on ourselves, the worse it seemed to get so I think we knew all along we could be a good penalty killing team. For us, it’s not as much of a ranking at this point, because we dug ourselves a huge hole, but it’s more about finding way to kill those penalties off and making it help us win games.”
It just couldn’t do that Friday.