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Sunday, March 14, 2010
Blackhawks' third-period woes continue

By Jesse Rogers

There were no goals given up in the second period all weekend for the Chicago Blackhawks. Mission accomplished, right? Think again. When you give up six combined goals in two third periods that lead to losses, it doesn’t matter what happened in the 40 previous minutes.
Jordan Hendry, Brooks Laich
The Capitals outplayed the Blackhawks in the third period -- something that's become a recurring theme for the Hawks.

“It’s a game we shouldn’t be happy about, more so the whole weekend,” Hawks coach Joel Quenenville said after his team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday. “We know we can score. It’s about playing defense.”

The Hawks didn’t do much of that in the third period, and even after the game was tied by the Capitals, they didn’t manage much offense, either. A season-low one shot on net in the period summed up the attack in the final 20 minutes. And even that shot came at the 19:58 mark. Still, the problems came in giving up a 3-0 bulge even with the leading scorer in the league, Caps star Alex Ovechkin, kicked out of the game.

“I think its just playing with the lead,” Hawks captain Johnathan Toews said. “It doesn’t matter what period it is. They’re all the same to me. I don’t know if we get a little comfortable, but its just not a few guys -- it’s the entire team.”

The numbers back up Toews’ words. The Hawks’ winning percentage, when leading after the first period, is .735. That’s just 17th in the league.

“We have the most skill in the league,” Toews went on. “There’s no reason being up 3-0 we can’t finish that game off. It was a frustrating weekend, considering we got one point instead of four … We only have ourselves to blame.”

The end results might sting less if the way the games were lost wasn’t so frustrating. Barring a major meltdown, the Hawks will earn themselves the No. 1 or 2 seed in the conference, but the way they’re giving games away isn’t how anyone wants to head into the postseason.

“If we play like this in the playoffs, we’ll probably be out after a couple of games,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said.

Hjalmarsson didn’t mean to say it like that, considering the playoffs are best-of-seven series, but his words ring true. It’ll be a quick exit if the defense doesn’t figure it out, and soon.