GLENDALE, Ariz. — On Jan. 24 the Blackhawks were a few minutes away from winning before they gave up two goals in quick succession in a late loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The same thing happened last Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets. On Tuesday it was a combination of not creating much offensively and once again giving up a late goal and the game.
The Blackhawks used to have a great habit with third periods: they were dominant in them, whether it was getting another needed goal or two or just bearing down and stymieing an opponent. That’s not happening right now. What is happening, Patrick Kane summed up well.
“With this team, we’re so used to controlling the play and having a lot of opportunities and chances and scoring a lot of goals that it’s a little bit different of a time right now,” Kane said.
The Blackhawks are definitely out of their element with their recent third periods, and it’s showing in a lack of points. Entering Thursday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes the Blackhawks have lost three in a row. They’re still in good shape in the Central Division but whether they’ve fallen out of their third-period comfort zone or have been shoved out of it by opponents, it’s been frustrating.
“Five games in the month of January we’re looking at having leads or tied in the later stages and end up with no points. That’s 10 points,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “If you can pick a number between zero and 10 and end up with an awful number at the end of it.”
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So what gives? The Blackhawks have never suffered from lack of confidence entering third periods. Even earlier this season, however, they weren’t always closing out third periods with complete games. As Quenneville has said often, the Blackhawks were probably “fortunate” in some of those earlier victories. Right now, fortune hasn’t been on their side.
“In January we gave up a lot of points in the last minute or two minutes. An experienced team like us, we’re not used to it,” Marian Hossa said. “We have to play tighter in those minutes. When you play against top guys and top teams, they’re going to get some chances but we have to eliminate them, play tighter and make sure the pucks get out so we can get at least one point in overtime. And you never know what can happen there, right? So we can definitely be better.”
One of their biggest issues for the Blackhawks this season has been putting it all together. Goaltending was great for a while. Then the offense took off for some time. In third periods they’ve always been stalwart. Somehow, they have to get back to that.
“Sometimes you have to adjust your game and play a little different. More important, when those games are tied or you’re up or down a goal, you find a way to get points out of the game,” Kane said. “That’s something we haven’t been doing lately.”
- Marcus Kruger (illness) returned to practice and is expected to play vs. the Coyotes.
- Duncan Keith took practice off. He’ll play vs. the Coyotes.
- Corey Crawford will start.