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?