It was a familiar story for many Chicago Blackhawks fan last night. First, a 2-0 lead became 2-1. Then, a 3-1 lead became knotted at three. Then, a 5-3 lead was blown in just over a minute. The Hawks could not end the game in overtime and ended up losing in a shootout. Sound familiar? Maybe not the scoreline, but a two-goal lead was blown against the Vancouver Canucks only recently. This game was against the St. Louis Blues, a division rival, and the scoreline only tells part of the story.
It seemed as if the Hawks had the Blues beaten multiple times, but the Blues just kept coming back. There have certainly been things said about how the Hawks must defeat the Blues, but another big concern is how the Hawks keep blowing two-goal leads. Now, in soccer, a two-goal lead is exceptionally dangerous, and hockey is no exception. But that doesn’t excuse how the Hawks can give them up so easily.
It seems as if the Hawks have been getting too complacent when holding two-goal leads. Instead of being more careful, carelessness sets in and their opponents are able to take advantage of this complacency. This has to stop.
To their credit, the Hawks know they’ve been letting chances slip away. Looking at post-game interviews — the Hawks are visibly frustrated for letting these wins slip away. It’s especially getting frustrating against the Blues, but talking about that goal is the subject of a completely different article (available here).
In order to do that, they need to play complete games. That means they have to play the same way in the third period as they did in the first. They must play their possession game and their defense must stay focused. Their goaltending must stay solid and their scorers have to score. In football, you always hear coaches talking about how all three phases did not play well, or one phase did not. Taking this analogy to hockey, it becomes just as vital for the Blackhawks’ four phases to (offense, defense, goaltending, special teams) play to the height of their abilities.
But why does this matter? It matters a lot and for a very simple reason– play in the regular season can determine play in the postseason. If the Hawks keep letting leads slip away, it could be disastrous in the playoffs. There won’t be a game to recover with. They have to fix this problem, and soon.