<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

Colorado Avalanche versus the Chicago Blackhwaks

One key to Chicago’s success: finishing strong

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To some extent, it’s business as usual for the Chicago Blackhawks, who are currently on a four-game winning streak.

They’re a dominant possession team with a mix of high-end offensive talent and impressive depth. Their defense probably doesn’t get enough credit in some quarters and their goaltending is generally solid, even among injuries.

CSNChicago.com points out one thing that might be different: they’re finishing games on a strong note, with a 29-12 goal differential in third periods.

Patrick Kane isn’t so sure what the difference is, yet Andrew Shaw seems to argue it’s a point of emphasis.

“Last year in the playoffs we had a lot of two-goal leads that we ended up blowing, so we’re really focusing on going into third periods ending games early and keeping that momentum moving forward,” Shaw said. “We’re just trying to find ways to close out games.”

Here’s one extra bit of context from CSNChicago.com:

The 29 third-period goals certainly catch the attention. Part of that is the Blackhawks’ recent production, which has taken off since mid-November. In their last seven victories, the Blackhawks have recorded 12 third-period goals. In some cases, those goals have broken ties. In more instances, however, it’s added to a lead the Blackhawks already had and made those final third-period minutes that less stressful.

This pivots to an interesting side question: who’s been the best at closing games out? NHL.com has handy period-by-period guides for goals for and against, so here’s a look at the best and worst in the final frame (not including overtime):

Team GP 3rd P Diff Goals For: 1st Pd 2nd Pd 3rd Pd OT Tot Goals Agnst: 1st Pd 2nd Pd 3rd Pd OT Tot
CALGARY 27 24 15 27 39 3 84 22 30 15 1 68
CHICAGO 25 17 30 15 29 1 75 17 19 12 1 49
TAMPA BAY 27 13 30 31 33 2 96 17 29 20 0 66
VANCOUVER 26 12 14 34 30 2 80 20 30 18 0 68
MONTREAL 27 11 8 24 33 1 66 23 21 22 1 67
NASHVILLE 25 7 16 22 27 1 66 15 14 20 1 50
LOS ANGELES 26 7 24 27 18 1 70 22 19 11 2 54
COLORADO 26 5 19 22 26 1 68 26 30 21 4 81
DETROIT 26 4 22 28 29 2 81 15 22 25 2 64
TORONTO 25 3 19 37 27 1 84 27 23 24 2 76
NY RANGERS 24 3 22 20 26 2 70 19 24 23 0 66
NY ISLANDERS 26 2 27 24 23 3 77 22 25 21 0 68
OTTAWA 25 1 17 20 24 1 62 16 24 23 3 66
ANAHEIM 27 1 19 29 23 1 72 18 27 22 2 69
FLORIDA 24 1 12 22 17 1 52 16 23 16 3 58
SAN JOSE 27 -2 22 28 25 0 75 18 26 27 0 71
ST LOUIS 26 -2 19 21 25 2 67 14 16 27 0 57
CAROLINA 25 -2 18 18 20 1 57 26 20 22 1 69
BOSTON 27 -2 20 23 19 3 65 18 30 21 1 70
PITTSBURGH 25 -2 33 28 17 2 80 18 19 19 1 57
EDMONTON 26 -3 13 22 23 0 58 28 31 26 4 89
MINNESOTA 24 -4 19 27 18 2 66 11 22 22 0 55
WINNIPEG 26 -4 20 19 12 2 53 17 21 16 2 56
WASHINGTON 25 -5 23 27 17 2 69 21 23 22 2 68
NEW JERSEY 26 -6 20 19 22 1 62 15 28 28 1 72
PHILADELPHIA 25 -10 19 24 21 2 66 22 24 31 0 77
BUFFALO 26 -15 9 13 19 0 41 18 28 34 1 81
ARIZONA 27 -15 20 23 17 2 62 25 25 32 2 84
DALLAS 26 -18 24 31 19 0 74 24 28 37 4 93
COLUMBUS 25 -21 20 22 15 0 57 23 26 36 1 86

Interesting stuff, huh? It’s especially notable that the Calgary Flames have almost as many goals in third periods (39) as they do in the opening four minutes combined (42). This could be a fun thing to revisit later on in the 2014-15 season; any theories on why some teams are so strong or weak late in games?

PHT Morning Skate: MacKinnon’s ‘Bubbles’ impersonation is a little too good

mackinnonbubs
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

“Trailer Park Boys” is probably a little niche for some, but it’s not a stretch to say that the Canadian program has a lot of overlap with hockey players and fans. Nathan MacKinnon showed as much, as his impersonation of the character Bubbles borders on nightmare fuel. Check this out from his Instagram account:

source:

(MacKinnon’s Instagram, H/T to Sportsnet)

Breaking: Jonathan Toews has a really, really nice house. (Next Impulse Sports)

Will we ever see another Jean Beliveau? (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting an $18,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Friday night’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Friday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Jarome Iginla felt relaxed in his return to Calgary. (Denver Post)

It’s one thing to discuss who is most likely to land Connor McDavid … but who should get him? (Grantland)

This, more than the goaltending, is what most of us missed during Ilya Bryzgalov’s absence:

Staal: Rangers must respond against Lightning

Tyler Johnson
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On paper, it seems like a rivalry in the making.

The New York Rangers went to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final as the Eastern Conference representative; the Tampa Bay Lightning came into 2014-15 as a chic choice to be the 2015 reps. The two teams employ each others’ former captains in Martin St. Louis and Ryan Callahan, not to mention the Bolts’ other former Blueshirts (Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle).

So far, it’s been more hammer-and-nail than give-and-take, as the Lightning won the first two games by a combined score of 8-4. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal told the New York Post that they must be better tonight, and not just against their former captain.

“There definitely has to be a response,” Staal said on Saturday. “Not just against Cally, but against their entire team.”

“We haven’t played 60 minutes against them. We haven’t played close to our best hockey. They buried us in our rink, and then we were better down there but it wasn’t good enough …”

Monday’s contest at Madison Square Garden will be their last meeting of 2014-15, unless the two teams met in a playoff series.

While the Rangers have been frustrated with their play against Tampa Bay, both teams come into December with some momentum.

The Lightning are on another level with a three-game winning streak, a 16-6-2 overall record and Victor Hedman back in the mix. The Rangers have to feel good after battering the Philadelphia Flyers in back-to-back games and winning four of five, even if their record is a “work in progress” 11-8-4.

Really, more is on the line for New York than just pride, though. After hosting the Lightning tonight, they’ll play five of six games on the road and things only get messier through mid-January.

It’s easier said than done against a team as strong as the Lightning, but the Rangers could really use a win tonight.

Columnist calls the Oilers ‘soft’

Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers
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There are a lot of theories regarding the Edmonton Oilers’ perpetual poorness.

They haven’t drafted well, especially beyond obvious high first-round picks. Despite year after year of ineptitude, the front office seems fairly protected, especially Kevin Lowe (sure, they changed GMs … but some wonder if Lowe’s voice still rings the loudest, anyway). Most directly, they are pretty lousy at keeping the puck out of their own net, whether that falls heaviest on their goalies or defensemen.

If you ask the Edmonton Sun’s Robert Tychkowski, the real problem is that the Oilers are “soft.”

It’s been nine years since the Edmonton Oilers were last described as a gritty, hard-working team that nobody wants to play against, which is probably why it’s been nine years since they last made the playoffs.

Any coach or GM worth his weight in lottery balls knows you need some mongrels mixed in with your purebreds if you’re ever going to win.

Granted, it’s also been nine years since the Oilers employed an elite defenseman, as Chris Pronger was traded to the Anaheim Ducks after Edmonton’s memorable run.

Anyway, Tychkowski believes that a recent roster move implies that the front office is acknowledging his perceived lack of sand paper. By calling up Tyler Pitlick and keeping Steve Pinizzotto while demoting Jesse Joensuu, he thinks that Edmonton’s addressing a deficit.

Is it really about grit and intangibles for Edmonton? Maybe, maybe not … but it seems like the Oilers still have a long way to go, which has basically been a refrain since that playoff run many moons ago.

Another Columbus calamity: Anisimov’s out 2-3 months

Winnipeg Jets v Columbus Blue Jackets
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You know things are bad when a team’s Twitter account is pleading with the “hockey gods” for mercy: the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that Artem Anisimov will miss two-to-three months with a torn triceps muscle.

One must consult a nearby thesaurus to find a more ornate word for what Columbus is going through, as “ridiculous” doesn’t even seem appropriate.

The hope is that Brandon Dubinsky will finally come back soon, with even an outside chance of returning today. Even so, the damage has already been done – November was the worst month in the franchise’s rocky history – and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be much closer to full strength for a while.

Anisimov hasn’t been a world-beater with six points in 16 games played, yet he’s an experienced player who seems to move the puck forward. Without the 26-year-old, the Blue Jackets must stretch their lineup that much thinner, even if Dubinsky could conceivably replace his work and maybe add a little bit more.

Sadly, it’s tough to imagine Columbus being deep in the playoff mix whenever Anisimov can return.

One can understand this tweet, all things considered.