The Blackhawks are 6-1-2 following Tuesday night's 3-2 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers. Chicago was able to pick up two more points against yet another Eastern Conference opponent, but the contest followed what is becoming a disturbing formula.
The 'Hawks built a two-goal advantage only to allow the host Panthers a pair of goals midway through the final frame. Once again Chicago had to put in extra time in overtime and the shootout to pull out the win.
Of the Blackhawks' 24 goals this season, just three have come in the final 20 minutes of regulation. All three of those came opening night against Washington.
Since that night, Chicago has gone scoreless in the third period eight straight times, including four overtime periods. Three times this season, the 'Hawks have seen two-goal leads evaporate in the third period.
Chicago is a minus-seven as a team in the third period, compared to being a plus-four in the first and a plus-eight in the second.
Are the Blackhawks guilty of coasting? It isn't acceptable for a team to let up with a multi-goal advantage, though it would be easy to understand. In four of the past eight games, the shot totals have been substantially less in the third period compared to the previous two.
However, in Chicago's 3-2 shootout loss to Tampa Bay Oct. 5, the Blackhawks put a dozen shots on Ben Bishop in the third period while giving up a 2-0 lead. Cam Ward turned away 10 'Hawks shots on goal Oct. 15 while the Hurricanes rallied from two down to tie the game in regulation.
It hasn't been the goaltending—Corey Crawford has been more than solid. Tuesday night saw Crawford turn away a penalty shot in the second period and stop both shootout skaters he faced. Of course, the Blackhawks surrendered another pair of goals as the Panthers forced overtime.
One of those goals came off a Duncan Keith turnover, set up when Brian Campbell got away with a trip of Brandon Pirri along the boards when it looked like Pirri was ready to clear the defensive zone. Sometimes it's a little something different every night.
Posting ties against inter-conference opponents doesn't hurt quite as much as surrendering that extra point to a Western Conference rival. Fortunately the 'Hawks have been feasting on a steady diet of Eastern Conference opposition.
Thursday is the rematch with the Lightning as Chicago once again tries to get that third-period monkey off its back. Hopefully the Blackhawks can come out strong and keep their foot on the gas on the way to a sweep of the Sunshine State.