The Chicago Blackhawks managed a point in San Jose Saturday night, though a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Sharks had an all-too-familiar ring. The 'Hawks played tough on the road but came up short in overtime.
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Chicago remains at the top of the Central Division with the effort. However, there is a definite frustration at the thought of all the three-point games the Blackhawks have dropped this season.
In a game where all the scoring came on a third-period 'Hawks power play, the extra point was decided when Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton all beat Corey Crawford in the shootout. Keep in mind, however, that Crawford was a big reason Chicago left the ice with a point, stopping 38 of 39 shots in 65 minutes.
A Patrick Sharp pass to Jonathan Toews on that power play never connected, allowing Scott Hannan to collect the puck at his own blue line and hit Pavelski entering the Chicago zone. Pavelski knocked the pass down, won a race to the net and hit the top right corner of Crawford's net to put the Sharks up 1-0 6:10 into the period.
The 'Hawks, who played well most of the evening, responded before the time expired on their man advantage. Kris Versteeg set up Brandon Saad for the game-tying tally at the 7:13 mark.
A fan could have dozed off for a moment and missed all the regulation scoring. In fact, thanks to the 9:30 p.m. start for the Chicago viewers, I'd guess more than a few did if they weren't already snoozing by that point of the contest.
The Blackhawks have not scored in overtime, despite going to the extra five minutes on 14 occasions this season. This includes an 0-6 record in overtime and a 5-8 mark in the shootout.
Chicago has dropped six of its last eight shootouts, including two to San Jose. The 'Hawks defeated Boston Jan. 19 and prevailed in a shootout Nov. 29 in Dallas. That one was an 11-round affair won on the stick of Ben Smith.
Regulation and overtime wins has been an important tie-breaking statistic over the past few seasons in a tight Western Conference. Chicago has 28 of these victories, placing it fourth behind the Anaheim Ducks (38), Colorado Avalanche (32) and St. Louis Blues (31).
If the Blackhawks find themselves in a dogfight with the Blues for the top spot in the Central Division, all these three-point games could cost them in terms of playoff seeding. Seeing as how St. Louis trails Chicago by a point in the division with games in hand, it could be a likely scenario as the regular season draws to a close in a few months.
Should 'Hawks fans be concerned that Chicago is dropping so many close games. Well, yes and no.
Looking at this from a playoff perspective, the 'Hawks have dropped six games in the first five minutes of overtime. In 13 other games, more overtime would replace the shootouts.
Chicago won a lot of important contests last spring in overtime, including a number of double- and triple-overtime affairs. There is no way to say for sure who wins those 13 games if the teams had been required to play five-on-five hockey. Even the six overtime losses may have come out differently using the playoff rules.
For better or worse, the shootout saves us from some very late West Coast finishes. It has been tough to stomach so many games lost after regulation in 2013-14. On the other hand, Chicago has continued to pick up points.
Is the Blackhawks' lack of overtime success a freak occurrence this season, or is it an omen of struggles to come in the playoffs? The answer, as it often does, will reveal itself as the postseason approaches.
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