The first period ticked away while the Washington Capitals shots on goal remained the same: zero. It stayed that way until Mike Greene wristed one Corey Crawfords way with less than four minutes remaining in the first period.
Yes, thats a rarity. But for the Blackhawks recently, holding opponents to low shot totals, isnt. And in keeping opponents opportunities to a minimum, the Blackhawks are helping their own cause.
In their three straight victories the Blackhawks allowed 24 or fewer shots per game. The opponents werent slouches, either: the St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Capitals -- who finished with just 18 shots on Sunday -- have their scoring threats. But the Blackhawks have kept chances low, and thats helped them in their latest successful stint.
We know theres enough talent in here to score goals if we focus on defense and try not to give them many chances or shots, Patrick Kane said after the Blackhawks 5-2 victory over Washington. That first period, I dont know if they had a shot the first 15 minutes or so. Its nice to have a start like that, its nice to play defense like that, and have the puck a lot.
So how have the Blackhawks done it? Its been a combination of things:
The Blackhawks are defending well, not allowing opponents much time in their zone to get a good scoring chance. Theyve also blocked 47 shots in their last three games, including 20 against the Stars on Friday.
Their checking line of Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw has been stellar lately, shutting down top lines. They did that with the Alexander Ovechkin line on Sunday night, and the Washington captains lone goal didnt come against them.
When shots are getting through, Crawford is stopping them. In his past three games, including his relief appearance against St. Louis, Crawford has stopped 55 of the last 58 shots hes seen. Crawfords performance last week (3-0-0 record with a 1.09 goals-against average) earned him the NHLs second star of the week.
The Blackhawks have been successful lately for a lot of reasons. Cutting down the oppositions chances has been a big part of that.