“One Goal” has been a Chicago Blackhawks mantra for some time now. This season, it was also the deciding margin in a lot of their games.
Sure, that’s led to some nail biting, even for a team that has been as good as the Blackhawks have been this season. But it’s ultimately been a successful category; and considering how many one-goal games there are in the postseason, the Blackhawks like how they’ve done in them.
The Blackhawks went 19-3–5 in one-goal games during the regular season, a success rate they’d like to repeat in these playoffs. They’ll be facing a Minnesota Wild team that will likely force them into a few of those.
“We had a lot of one-goal games, a lot of games got to OT and had some success in them,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “A lot were important games. I think when they were on the line, with the meaning of third periods, we had a little education process where we had some tough losses late in games. But the structure of our team the majority of the season, playing the right way and being consistent in that area, has heartened us to want to be on the ice and make sure we do the right things at critical times.”
This was not a good category for the Blackhawks last season. Too many leads were lost late, too many points went by the wayside. But there are so many differences this season, starting with stronger goaltending and better defense. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery earned the Jennings Trophy on Sunday for the fewest goals allowed by a team this season. The penalty kill has been much better, too. All of it has led to the Blackhawks playing tighter games better. Good timing, entering the tight-game-laden playoffs.
“We found ways to win hockey games in tough situations in the regular season,” Marian Hossa said. “We know the playoffs are a higher intensity but (that record’s) good coming into games like that. We feel like we’re prepared and ready to go.”
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Still, the Blackhawks aren’t resting on their regular-season laurels. They know the postseason is different. But they want to bring the mentality that worked in so many one-goal games already.
“During the regular season, we did pretty outstanding in that category. We got so many points this season winning those tight games. But it’s a new season from now on, and it doesn’t matter what happened in the regular season,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Obviously we have one more home game, that’s nice. And we have confidence. But we all know it’s hard work.”
Duncan Keith said, “we’ve been in a lot of tight games and we’ve learned from those games. At the same time, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win very game. You can have games with bad bounces. But knowing our job, no matter what the score is or how the game’s going, we’re going to stick with our plan and good things usually happen.”
The “One Goal” remains the same for the Blackhawks. Staying on the positive end of those one-goal games will go a long way in achieving it.
“It’s definitely going to be tighter in the playoffs, and those one-goal games are going to be important,” Crawford said. “Especially if you’re leading in the third period; they key is to hold on. We’re just going to play our solid game, play with speed and move the puck. We just have to worry about how we’re playing.”