ATLANTA -- Nothing like some empirical evidence to back up a coach’s words.
Joel Quenneville has been talking for weeks about playing better in the third period of tight games. The Chicago Blackhawks finally did it on Saturday -- and it paid off.
“I thought we were more responsible in the third and more predictable in our game,” Quenneville said after the 5-4 shootout win over Atlanta at Philips Arena. “You get to overtime, [then] you pick up two [points]. It’s a huge difference in the standings.”
Quenneville was referencing six other games this season in which the score was tight—as in tied in the third—and the Hawks got nothing out of it.
“It makes a huge difference if you can just hang in there in the third,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’ve had a lot of third periods with leads where we kind of blow it. It feels like whatever you do nothing is going to go right, but we stuck with it there.”
The Hawks gave up only eight shots in the third after Atlanta averaged 13 in each of the first two periods. They finally buckled down and were rewarded, pushing their record in one-goal games to 5-4-1. That’s not anything to write home about, but it’s a start.
Highly touted prospect Jeremy Morin, who came from Atlanta in the blockbuster deal that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel to the Thrashers, left the game after blocking a shot as he slid in front of defenseman Johnny Oduya in the third period. Morin limped off favoring his right leg, then tried to play a shift later in the period but wasn’t able to skate well. There was no update on his condition after the game. Morin had several good looks at the Thrashers’ net, finishing with three shots in 9:54 of ice time.
“Tie game. He’s committed to doing what you have to do to win,” Quenneville said Morin’s blocked shot. “You like that compete level.”
The highly anticipated matchup with the four former Hawks who helped Chicago to a Stanley Cup title had plenty of drama. Andrew Ladd, Eager and Byfuglien all had a point in the game, while Ladd scored in the shootout. Byfuglien missed on his chance, but had six shots on net.
Patrick Kane said there was some chatter on the ice with their close friends.
“I lined up next to Eager a few times so there were a couple of jokes there,” Kane said. “I think I was pretty much on the ice with Buff the whole time so he was always looking at me. We had a few laughs.”
Quenneville likes Viktor Stalberg on the top line with Kane and Toews.
“He opens things up,” Quenneville said. “The other guys have some patience with it, but I think his speed is very dangerous and I think he’s improving in his defensive game.”
The Emmy goes to…
The Blackhawks won Emmy Awards from the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for their “One Goal” advertisements featuring Quenneville and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, and for their “Blackhawks TV” program on the team’s website. The award winners were announced on Saturday evening at Park West in Chicago.
“It’s a lot more fun knowing you can win it, than the pressure of tying it.” – Stalberg, on his shootout chance.