CALGARY, Alberta Remember last season when the Blackhawks struggled in third periods, too often squandering one-goal leads and coming up empty?
Yeah, so do the Blackhawks. They werent too fond of losing slim leads and point opportunities. So this season, and especially in recent games, the Blackhawks have been turning up the offense in the third period.
The Blackhawks are playing more from start to finish this season, especially the finish part. Counting their three goals against Vancouver on Wednesday night, the Blackhawks have now outscored opponents 22-12 in third periods.
Not bad for a team that hung onto leads by their fingernails last season. So whats been the difference this season? The personnel changes? A more confident attitude?
I think its probably a combination of those things, defenseman Duncan Keith said. Weve got depth now, and it gets everybody into the game, everybodys playing. A (good) start to this season was important and something we stressed; and I just think were committed to winning and doing what it takes.
Depth, as well as a few recent line tweaks, has helped plenty. The Blackhawks arent just depending on one line to score for them. Several lines have scored, as have several defensemen.
And theres balance. The whole four-lines-rolling mantra that coach Joel Quenneville preaches has been put into practice a lot lately, which means everyones staying fresher through 60 minutes.
More energy in the third period means more finish.
The Blackhawks endings have also compensated for some slow beginnings. They werent thrilled with the way they came out against the Canucks, who had more jump than they did in the first period. But by the end it was no contest.
We always feel like we can play better, and we seem to be getting better as the game goes on and on. You saw that last night, too. They took it to us early, and we came back roaring after that, Patrick Kane said. It seems like we keep getting better.
Viktor Stalberg said veterans have also spoken up when they feel the Blackhawks have needed to close out strong.
There have been a few occasions where we may not have played the way we wanted to in first two periods and guys like Johnny (Toews) and Jamal (Mayers) say, We have a chance here, thats not all weve got. So lets go prove it to ourselves, Stalberg said. We want to keep getting better and we are and its a good sign for our hockey club.
The Blackhawks are taking advantage of their third periods this season. They know the dangers of just holding on or just doing enough late in games. They want to go into the later part of this season with a stronger playoff position. Their late-game production should help toward that cause.
When the games are on the line were doing the right things, Quenneville said. Were more predictable in our team play. Were thinking more on the defensive side of things, which usually enhances offensive side. If were committed to that, well find a way to get it done.