CHICAGO – Sitting back in their seats Tuesday night, the fans who packed the United Center should be used to it. The man standing on the bench is too.
Joel Quenneville has been through situations like this one a number of times throughout the 2016-2017 season.
Against their rival, the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks dropped two leads in the first two periods and then went scoreless in the third period. A 3-3 tie sent the contest to yet another overtime in this campaign.
Thanks to a miscue by the Red Wings, the Blackhawks started the session with a 4-on-3 power play. Duncan Keith made them pay when he buried a slap shot from the point to give the Blackhawks a victory.
“We’ve played a lot of tight games,” said Keith, who registered just his second goal of the season on that game-winner. “That’s a good thing.”
For the blood pressure? Probably no. But the team has become quite good at succeeding in close games.
That win over Red Wings was the Blackhawks’ 28th game of the season decided by one goal or less. The victory was their 17th in such games – the highest total in the National Hockey League.
With that said, its’ not surprise that the team has been quite good in the overtime session during the season. Like around the league, the Blackhawks have reached overtime in a higher pace than a season ago when they have 20 games of their 84 games go to an extra session. So far this year they’ve gone to OT 14 times in 44 games with seven victories, which is second only to the Kings’ eight.
So why the close contests – and the Blackhawks success in them?
“I think all the teams are pretty even. You look at the standings you see just about every team .500 or above,” said Quenneville. “I think teams know how to play, keep themselves in games. The scores dictate a lot of how the games are being played.
“It just seems like there is so much balance in the league, the parity is as good as it’s ever been or close as it’s ever been.”
Yet Keith does know that the team can’t get too caught up in success in the close games. Building a gap between them and their opponents is the best case scenario not to mention the team has lost 11 of those one-goal games either in regulation or overtime.
“There is still room for improvement,” said Keith. “We need to be a team that goes all the way, we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We know there is still a half-a-season here but we’ve done good things.”
Even if it’s made for some nervous moments for their fans and coach.