The Blackhawks own the league's second-best penalty-killing unit. The St. Louis Blues own the league's best power play. But Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has a way to avoid the immovable object-irresistible force matchup.
"Let's prevent their power play looks by staying out of the box," Quenneville said after Thursday's morning skate at Scottrade Center.
That's been a problem lately for the Hawks, who have managed to keep their 19-game point streak alive despite a recent spate of third-period penalties. The Hawks' penalty-killing unit, led by Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik, have done a masterful job of limiting the damage those penalties have caused. But the Blues are scoring at a 30.6-percent clip (19-of-62) on the power play.
"They put a good power play unit out there, they have a lot of different options and a lot of different weaponry on top," Quenneville said.
With offensive-minded defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (one goal, 14 assists) and Alex Pietrangelo (three goals, nine assists) on the blue line, the Hawks are wary.
"Their 'D' are very active in the rush," Quenneville said. "They come, they're coming. It's almost like a five-man attack. [Pietrangelo] has really come on the scene the last year as a top defenseman in our league. But you don't just notice him offensively, you notice him one defense, as well. He's dangerous and we have to have an awareness of him on the ice."
For the Blues, who are missing forwards Andy McDonald, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, the concern is the Hawks' depth and relentlessness. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the key is to playing the Hawks is to play "60 minutes."
"Play 40, you're dead," he said. "We played 30, it wasn't good enough. You've got to play 60, got to play 60 the right way, then see where it goes. Because that's the reason they're winning, they play more minutes than other teams. Maybe the game's up for grabs in the third period, but in the third period against Edmonton, they always have the puck. If you always have the puck, you're going to win a lot of hockey games. They just play more minutes than any team in the West right now. I would say L.A. is starting to catch up, probably Anaheim's right there. But they're the team that plays more minutes, more quality minutes than anybody in the West right now.