Last night added to the theme that the Hawks are having serious 3rd period woes. They once again coughed up a two-goal lead to a team they shouldn’t be coughing up a two-goal lead too, and needed the shootout to bail them out again. Some have begun to really worry, while some have brushed it off as just October kinks and natural hiccups as the Hawks slowly move through the gears early in the year. But I wanted to go through these so-called collapses and see if we can’t get to the nuts and bolts and find out if it’s a trend or something more unlucky or detailed than that.
Let’s throw out the opener against the Caps, as that was more due to the lethal Washington power play (which is looking more and more like the only time they care). Essentially, we’re talking about home to Tampa, at St. Louis, at Carolina, and last night. Now, four games doesn’t really signal a trend totally, but it’s what we’ve got.
Before we start, some we’ll suggest the home game to Buffalo as well, and the only reason that two-goal lead didn’t evaporate was the complete incompetence of the Sabres offense. True, but that was the second of a back-to-back and the legs could have been feeling it.
Tampa – An icing call forces Marcus Kruger to take a draw against Stamkos, who wins it cleanly obviously and St. Louis backhands a rebound home after beating a couple fourth-liners to the net. Keith and Seabrook on the ice and Keith doesn’t get to the rebound, though it really did shoot out away from him.
Second goal was on the power play off a Toews hi-sticking goal where Purcell picked up a loose puck.
Hawks outshoot the Lightning 12-8 in the 3rd. Fenwick (Extra skater doesn’t do Corsi by period) was also 20-14 for the Hawks.
@St. Louis – You know the story here. Terrible pinch in last minute by Seabrook, Steen takes advantage. Shots are 7-7 in the 3rd, Fenwick 11-10 for the Blues.
@Carolina – First goal in 3rd is caused when Sharp comes over too far from his wing, opening up Staal for a shot and Semin beats Handzus to the net. Second is off turnover from Nordstrom and Rozsival before Rozie decides to block out Crow completely. Shots are 11-10 for Carolina and Fenwick is 14 apiece.
@Florida – Fresh in the minds now. The Hawks top line and top defensive pair don’t exactly shot TWTW and the Panthers are able to string together a gorgeous passing play to get back in it. Then Keith turnover gifts Kulikov the equalizer. Shots in 3rd are 7-6 for Florida and Fenwick is 12-9 for Panthers.
So what are some of the themes we are seeing here? One is that the Hawks aren’t exactly getting shelled in the 3rd period. What is happening is their going from dominating to equal, and a small shift in that direction is only natural when a team is trailing and has to go for broke.
Another? Keith and Seabrook seem to be on the ice for a lot of it. Some of it is bad luck, as it could be argued that Martin St. Louis goal was. But really, the two guys the Hawks trust most to not let leads slip away are on the ice when leads are slipping away.Throw in mistakes from Toews and Sharp in this, and while that’s not good it’s not something that’s going to be a season-long problem.
There are other factors, of course. We’ve talked at length how the wonky ice-time distribution might have fatigued Keith and Seabrook, along with the other top-end players. So there’s that.
Another is that the Hawks aren’t putting teams away before the 3rd, leaving them in that bloop-and-a-blast range. Why’s that? Well, Sharp and Shaw have one goal between them. It’s hard to believe, but Shaw has been a 20-goal a season pace in his two half-seasons with the Hawks. His goals are significant enough that the Hawks miss them. He won’t stay goalless forever, and Sharp won’t be stuck on 1 for long either.
And honestly, Hossa and Toews only have three each. A goal every three games is not what we’ve come to expect from them, and when their pace picks up the Hawks’ will too. We can look at the secondary scoring, but Bickell has two, Pirri two, Nordstrom got one, Smith got one, Handzus has one, and you wouldn’t expect these guys to score at much higher of a rate than that.
Leddy and Keith also haven’t scored, and it wouldn’t be ridiculous to expect around 10 from each of them. So there’s just things that haven’t lit up yet that are going to.
People also need to remember that the Hawks went through a phase of not great with leads early last season, but either held on or got a point in a shootout and thus masked it with The Streak To The Sea. Then, the Blues, Jackets, Detroit, Minnesota, Calgary, Anaheim, Vancouver were able to nearly come back or actually did overcome deficits in the 3rd period in January and February. This isn’t new, and it’s usually something that gets ironed out when it has to.
So let’s just ease this big rig down, hmmm?