The Chicago Blackhawks have been a much stronger third-period team in the first two months of the season. Now, they just have to find a way to draw first blood.
In 18 of Chicago's first 28 games, the opposition has scored first. The 'Hawks are 7-8-3 in those games, good for a .389 winning percentage. Conversely, the Blackhawks are 9-0-1 when scoring first. Only the Rangers (.917) have a better winning percentage than Chicago (.900) when potting the first goal of the night.
Taking an early lead isn't exactly rocket science. After all, how many times has it been suggested in someone's keys to the game? Yet, in each of Chicago's last four games, the team fell behind in the opening minutes.
In the latest loss to Phoenix, the 'Hawks gave up a goal less than three minutes into the contest. Lately, Chicago has struggled defensively, especially in the first five or six minutes into the game.
The Blackhawks have been much better in the third period this season. They are holding leads in the last 20 minutes and have come from behind to win three games. The overall results suggest that how the 'Hawks finish is more important that how they start. That said, coming out of the locker room and playing solid hockey is still something to work toward.
The Islanders, who host Chicago Thursday night, have lost just one game in regulation after opening the scoring. Fortunately, it was to the 'Hawks. Still, it's easier to put New York away by taking the lead. The Islanders are just 2-10-2 when falling behind first.
Ray Emery will likely be in the crease in Long Island, according to reports. Can he follow up a solid game in relief of Corey Crawford by keeping his team out of an early hole? Will he have help from his blue line in pursuit of that goal?
The defense was wobbly in the first period Monday as the Coyotes went out to a two-goal lead in the first period. The Islanders are not a power team in the Eastern Conference, but falling behind on the road isn't going to turn out well most nights.
The solution is easy to say: score first. Now all Chicago has to do is make it happen on the ice.