The United Center was raucous after the goal by Artem Anisimov, the second one the Blackhawks scored in a 56-second span and the one that gave them a 3-2 lead on the Dallas Stars.
It was another great third period for the Blackhawks, who have had several of them this early season. It was also necessary. Because once again, the Blackhawks got off to a slow start.
When you’re on a six-game winning streak, as the Blackhawks are right now, obviously there are plenty of things going right. We’ll get to that later. But the slow starts have continued, and the Blackhawks still would like to get out of the gate quicker.
“We’ve been sloppy in certain areas, whether it’s clears, whether it’s in the puck area in our own zone, and it leads to chances and the momentum going their own way,” coach Joel Quenneville said prior to their weekend series against Dallas. “We have to find a way to get through it.”
Now when we talk about the slow starts it doesn’t necessarily mean the Blackhawks have trailed after one period. Usually, they’ve just looked off the first few minutes — a good example of that is against Colorado, who outshot the Blackhawks 11-1 in the first 12:47 last week. The Blackhawks have been outshot in the first period in 11 of their 13 games this season. That usually doesn’t always mean much, but the Blackhawks have given up some quality opportunities in those shots. Credit the Blackhawks’ goaltending for keeping most of those chances from becoming goals.
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Now for the flip side of this: Despite those lousy initial minutes, the Blackhawks have finished the first period with the lead six times (they’re 5-1-0 in those games). Even when they have trailed after one, they’ve found a way to get points (3-1-1). And they’ve been outstanding in third periods, outscoring opponents 19-10 this season.
“I think when the game goes on, we are in a better rhythm and we’re playing better than the start,” Marian Hossa said. “But I think we have to keep improving and have better starts, because that’s as important as finishing.”
Quenneville, when asked about the Blackhawks’ great third-period production following Sunday’s game, went back to the starts.
“We had 4-on-4 and guys made a great play on both plays and we got ourselves back in the game. But it’s the same recipe we’ve talked about game in, game out,” Quenneville said. “We have trouble clearing pucks or we put it in tough areas and sustain zone time for them and don’t have enough puck time and possession in their end.”
The Blackhawks are playing better all-around hockey. They’re finding better chemistry in their lines, which haven’t changed much the last few games. Penalty killing has improved, and goaltending has been great from the start. Still, those first few minutes of every game have been an issue. They’ve usually overcome it, but the Blackhawks would like to have as much energy and all-around play at the start of their games as they have at the end.
“Maybe the teams we play, they come out so hot at the start of the game and we need to just be prepared for that kind of start,” Artem Anisimov said. “We have to play our way. From the first drop of the puck, play how we play late in the game.”
— Jonathan Toews did score the Blackhawks’ first goal in their 3-2 victory over Dallas on Saturday night, the NHL announced today. The goal, which came 11 seconds into the game, was originally given to Richard Panik. Toews now has four goals in his last five games.
— Corey Crawford was named the NHL’s second star for last week. Crawford went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage.