Blackhawks look for breathing room after one-goal games

Blackhawks look for breathing room after one-goal games
October 13, 2013, 3:45 pm
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The shot totals are everywhere from strong to tremendous. The Chicago Blackhawks are recording everywhere from 28 to 40 shots per game, that last total coming against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

But for all those shots, the goals haven’t been as plentiful. Yes, the Blackhawks are winning, heading into this week’s games with a 3-1-1 mark. But even those victories have been hair-raising because, instead of having a decent lead, the Blackhawks have been holding onto one-goal leads for dear life.

[MORE: Blackhawks make it two in a row with win over Sabres]

Close games are a part of the NHL, and they’re certainly not anomalies for the Blackhawks. But with as many shots they’re generating, the Blackhawks would like to land a few more to give themselves some breathing room. They’re sixth in the league in shots per game with 33.8, 11th overall in goals per game (3.0).

“It’d be nice to score that third goal,” Patrick Kane said after the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. “Sometimes we may think about that too much and we start thinking too much on the offensive side and give up chances defensively. We had some chances to make it 3-1 but we didn’t get them through. Hopefully they’ll come as the season goes on.”

Coach Joel Quenneville is fine with the high amount of shots. Cleaning up on some of them would be nice.

“Generating of quality and quantity is exactly what we want. Finish, and what it takes to score, maybe we need to be greasier around the net and put it in the back,” he said on Saturday. “We missed the net — which is our biggest problem scoring goals — and second chances.”

The Blackhawks have enough offensive weapons that this will work itself out. It did last season.

Some other random musings:

1. Joakim Nordstrom will go through his growing pains, certainly. But after scoring his first career goal against the New York Islanders on Friday night, Nordstrom’s confidence is growing. The 21-year-old isn’t afraid to shoot or drive to the net. Coach Joel Quenneville said the other day that he doesn’t like to put numbers on lines; part of that is probably because he wants all players, no matter which line they’re on, to contribute and play as big a part with this team as they can. Nordstrom is doing that right now as a fourth liner. It bodes well for his future.

[RELATED: Blackhawks notes: Nordstrom 'kind of exploded inside']

2. Speaking of Nordstrom, Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig: they’re scoring goals. Each already has his first of the season, and it’s another reminder that, while the top guys are still going to be the top scorers, all points from all players are welcome. “It takes the pressure off our top six guys a little bit. They don’t have to score every single game,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We can get goals from the third and fourth line, and that’s huge for us to have that depth.”

3. Patrick Sharp finished career game No. 600 sans career goal No. 199. Sharp has yet to score this season, although he’s gathering up the shot attempts. It’s only a matter of time before they end up in the back of the net.

4. Nick Leddy ended the preseason using his speed to bring the puck up ice and drive hard into the opponent’s zone. In recent regular-season games, however, it appears he’s backed off that. Leddy’s at his best when he plays that fast-forward game, he knows that and the Blackhawks know that. He had a strong 2012-13 regular season from playing that way, and he needs to show more of it again.

5. Both of the Blackhawks’ special teams are going in the right directions. The power play has scored at least one goal in four of their first five games and the kill is 5 for 5 in the last two contests.