Blackhawks have will, so they find way — to win, that is
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com March 12, 2013 8:36PM
Hawk winger Patrick Kane pushes the puck past Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk who ventured far outside the goal crease in an attempt to play a loose puck in the second period. Kane scored on the play. The Chicago Blackhawks lost 6-5 to the Edmonton Oilers Sunday March 10, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:35AM
Patrick Kane had just scored his second goal of the game to bring the Blackhawks within a goal of a
miraculous comeback Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers. It was the third period, and the Hawks suddenly had all the momentum.
On Kane’s next shift, he was everywhere, circling the Oilers’ net like a shark, three times striking for a golden scoring opportunity.
But the tying goal never
came, and the Hawks dropped their second consecutive game. And that genuinely seemed to surprise Kane.
‘‘It was a good comeback,’’ he said of the Hawks’ rally from an early 4-0 deficit in their 6-5 loss. ‘‘But not good enough, I guess.’’
That third-period mentality — that idea the Hawks can hold on to any lead and erase any deficit — was both a cause and an effect of their 24-game points streak to open the season. And just like the goaltending, the
defense, the depth and seemingly everything else in this 21-2-3 start, that late-game confidence is quite a turnaround from last season.
‘‘It’s been great that this year we’ve been able to pull those out,’’ Kane said.
‘‘Because last year was a
Well, ‘‘disaster’’ might be a bit strong, but the Hawks thought they let too many points slip away in the third period last season. They lost 17 of 39 one-goal games last season, with 11 of those coming in overtime or shootouts. They were a solid 8-2-3 when tied after two periods but 6-23-5 when trailing after two. And four measly points would have made the difference
between having the sixth seed and having home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
This season, the Hawks are a sparkling 13-1-3 in one-goal games and 3-2-1 when trailing after two periods (the two regulation losses coming in their last two games). When leading after two periods, they’re a near-perfect 15-0-1.
‘‘We seemed to have trouble closing out games, no matter what the situation last year,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘But this year, it doesn’t matter what situation we’re in. We feel we can come back in a game. Or if we’re up 1-0, we feel we can do whatever it takes with our goaltending and our
defensive play to close out that game.’’
That mentality is particularly important in this lockout-shortened season. Coach Joel Quenneville has stressed since training camp just how critical every standings point is, how vital shootouts are, how aggravating three-point games — when one team gets two for the victory and the other gets one for the overtime loss — involving conference foes are and how tight he expects the standings to be by the end of the season.
So Kane’s tying goal and winning shootout tally March 3 in Detroit might prove to be extra-important come May. As might Daniel Carcillo’s last-minute game-winner last Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche. And all the overtime winners. And all the big late saves by Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.
All those points add up. The Hawks learned that the hard way last season and
appear to have taken that lesson to heart this season.
‘‘I think it is a different mentality,’’ Kane said. ‘‘If it’s a one-goal game, a lot of us know that we can win and defend a little bit better and make the play when it’s needed. We believe we’re going to win every time.’’
NOTE: Defenseman Steve Montador cleared waivers
and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Winger Jimmy Hayes (fourth on the IceHogs with 39 points in 58 games) was recalled from Rockford.