The Blackhawks have shown their share of flaws this season, but their ability to close out a victory has been flawless. After squandering a lead but salvaging a victory Friday night in Buffalo, the Hawks are a perfect 25-0-0 when leading after two periods — the league’s only unbeaten team in such situations. Like a baseball team with an unbeatable bullpen, the Hawks just have to get to the final third of the game with a lead.
“I didn’t really know that stat, but it shows that we’re never satisfied, and we always want more,” Bryan Bickell said. “If we’re up one or two goals going into the [third, we] kind of put teams behind the burners and let them press. And [we] get more offense that way, and just play smart defensively and play the right way to get wins.”
Joel Quenneville chalked the remarkable record up largely to the play of Corey Crawford, Scott Darling and Antti Raanta.
“Goaltending this year has been great in key times, and I think that’s probably the one thing that’s really helped solidify that record, the goaltending when the game’s on the line,” he said.
The Hawks haven’t quite had the killer instinct in recent seasons. In the last four seasons, they’ve been 12th, 10th, 14th and 24th in the league when leading after two. Last year, they lost five times in such situations, including three overtime losses.
The Rangers, Lightning and Ducks are all unbeaten in regulation when leading after two, but have lost in overtime or shootouts.
Quenneville reiterated Friday that recent college signings Kyle Baun and Michael Paliotta will play for the Hawks by the end of the regular season, but it didn’t come Friday night. If Quenneville was reluctant to play them against the league-worst Sabres, is he going to be comfortable playing them in either of the two St. Louis games left? Or the Minnesota game? Or the season-finale at Colorado, a game which might have a division title or home-ice advantage on the line?
“We’re going to get them in one of these games,” Quenneville responded. “We’ll have no problem getting them in.”
Michal Rozsival was a healthy scratch on Friday, but David Rundblad, not Paliotta, took his spot.
Injured players rarely travel with the team, but the Hawks made an exception for Buffalo native Patrick Kane, who skated at First Niagara Center on Friday morning, and said he came along to “see some peeps.”
“Kaner wanted to skate and be back in Buffalo and enjoy the day and enjoy the skate,” Queneville said. “He’s progressing. We don’t usually do that, but Kaner, we brought him along because he wanted to come.”