Chicago Blackhawks v Florida Panthers

I planned to do Boxing tonight, but I ended up having to watch the game at work and couldn’t get around to it. Plus, there are some things to talk about that can’t be done through Boxing. I will do it after Thursday’s game against the ‘Ning. I think. I hope.

Taking at least a point in eight of the first nine games is something that should be celebrated. Not in the NHL-record-24-straight-games-to-start-a-season sort of fashion, but it’s definitely impressive – even for a team coming off its second Stanley Cup title in four years.

But there’s no doubt there’s some uneasiness resonating within the fan base about the Blackhawks’ inability to find twine in the third period this season, leading to some unnecessarily uncomfortable outcomes. Such was the case Tuesday, as the ‘Hawks blew a 2-0 lead in the final period before¬†Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp¬†scored in the shootout for a 3-2 win over Florida.

I know it seems like the easy way out, and I’m probably in the minority, but paint me unworried – which is precisely the stance the Blackhawks are taking. It’s October, and they’ve ended up with two points more often than not.

”We’re not happy with giving up leads in the third period,” Sharp said. ”We’d like to close teams out by scoring in the third period and get out of here, but when the games get tight we seem to play better and that’s important. It would be a lot worse if we were coming away with no points instead of two.”

”I don’t think we’re playing any different than the first two periods. I don’t think we’re sitting on leads,” Quenneville said. ”We’re not complaining, let’s put it that way.”

The ‘Hawks may not be sitting on leads, but they’re definitely not flooring it offensively in the third period – and that’s to be expected when holding a multiple-goal edge. The opposition is going balls out to make up the deficit, and it’s just not feasible to expect the Blackhawks to continue pressing with the risk of becoming vulnerable defensively when the trailing team is coming at them with all they’ve got to get back into the game. I don’t feel like they’re becoming more relaxed with the lead, but more so simply trying to control possession and be smart. Sure, it doesn’t always work out, but I’d rather have the Blackhawks in that position rather than having to come back every single night.

The ‘Hawks were only outshot 7-6 in the third Tuesday. They got caught having two players failing to win a board battle that led to Tomas Fleischmann’s goal, then Duncan Keith’s errant pass led to Kulikov’s equalizer. Those are things that easily could’ve happened in the first two periods, and they had nothing to do with the narrative of the ‘Hawks being more lax in the third.

Teams that hold a leading heading into the third are 83-5-12 this season, meaning those teams earn at least one point 95 percent of the time. The Blackhawks are 6-0-1 this season when leading after 40. I’d say I’m all right with the ‘Hawks getting off these fast starts and heading into the third trying to protect a lead. The late goals will come.

During the Blackhawks’ 21-0-3 start to last season, they outscored opponents by a whopping 20-19 in the third period. Four times during that stretch they allowed the opposition to tie the game in the third period before securing at least a point, but we all seemed pretty happy that the streak continued.

It’s happened three other times this season, with the Blackhawks coming away with two points twice. They lost to the Lightning in the shootout after giving up a two-goal lead in the third, but they at least came away with a point – something we seemingly would be more than happy with if there was a streak we could be getting behind. But there’s not, and we’re getting a little restless. Not saying that’s wrong, but let’s put things into perspective a bit.

Fact is, the Blackhawks are playing tight, competitive games and are securing points in the first month of the season – points that will go along way come the end of the season when battling for playoff seeding, especially in an Olympic year. Their only regulation loss was to a solid St. Louis team that had an odd-man rush with less than 30 seconds remaining. Shit like that happens.

Again, these kinds of things will be cleared up, and there’s no reason to start saying, “This shit can’t keep happening come playoff time!” because the postseason is roughly six months away. Calm down, take the points for now, and let the Blackhawks iron out the kinks.

I, for one, am not worried.