On the surface, the Chicago Blackhawks appear to be rolling. After dropping their first two contests, they're currently 6-1-2 and in fourth place in the Western Conference. However, they've yet to play a full 60-minute contest, instead scraping by on 55 strong minutes of play.
If you believe that championship teams don't yield third-period leads—and you should—then this is a concerning early-season trend.
|1st Period Goals Allowed||2nd Period Goals Allowed||3rd Period Goals Allowed|
You don't have to be a Sabermetrics expert to see a negative here: Chicago has allowed more goals in the third period (10) than it has in the first and second periods combined.
If the 'Hawks were benching the likes of Duncan Keith and resting their top six because of five-goal leads, that'd be one thing.
The Blackhawks have blown two-goals leads in three of their nine games so far this season, but the alarms haven't gone off yet because they've managed to secure two of those contests in the shootout.
On October 5, after Chicago opened its season against the Washington Capitals, they took on the Tampa Bay Lightning. It led the game by a 2-0 score until the midway point of the third period. The Lightning scored two quick goals in less than a minute, knotting up a game that should have been decided.
In their next contest, the 'Hawks gave up a lone third-period goal to the St. Louis Blues that would eventually become the game-winner in a 3-2 loss.
Another game there for the taking, but Chicago couldn't seal the deal.
An October 12 matchup with the lowly Buffalo Sabres proved more troublesome than it should have been. Drew Stafford scored halfway through the third period, pushing the score to 2-1 in favor of Chicago. A better hockey team than Buffalo might have been able to steal the momentum and tie it up, but the 'Hawks managed to hold off the Sabres and win in regulation.
The Carolina Hurricanes came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period on October 15, with Chicago yielding the tying marker around the halfway mark of the period yet again.
The Florida Panthers are the most recent team to push Chicago around in the third. They too scored twice in the final frame, erasing a 0-2 deficit. Want to guess when those goals came? Right around the halfway mark of the third period.
|Oct 5 (Lightning)||Oct 9 (Blues)||Oct 12 (Sabres)||Oct 15 (Hurricanes)||Oct 22 (Panthers)|
Five of the 10 third-period goals the 'Hawks have allowed have been between the ninth and the 13th minutes of the final frame.
Across an entire season, this sort of cross section might be random. With such a small sample size, though, it indicates a trend that Chicago needs to fix immediately. Only playing 50 or even 55 minutes of good hockey isn't going to get it done in an 82-game season—let alone in the playoffs.
There seems to be a very specific time when the 'Hawks cash it in and count the game won. They've been outplayed badly during a particular juncture of the third period all year long, but have been saved by some heroic efforts in the shootout.
The law of averages kicks in eventually, however, and Chicago can't win every game via the skills competition.
The 'Hawks simply cannot continue to get lazy in the middle of the third period and give up two-goal leads.