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One Minute Remaining: Close battles keep standings close

by Harvey Wittenberg / Chicago Blackhawks

Now into the third month of the season, the conference races seem to be getting even tighter, while the watchword in every game mostly seems to be "closeness." After winning two Stanley Cups in four years, most of the Blackhawks' games so far in 2013-14 have been decided by one goal, as each opponent tries to boost their game against the champions.

Last season, the Blackhawks were triumphant in one-goal matches with a mark of 19-3-5 in the 48-game schedule. The playoffs were even more dramatic, with the Blackhawks notching eight victories and only two defeats in one-goal margins. That's including the dramatic comeback in

Games 6 and 7 against Detroit, culminating in Brent Seabrook's OT winner in the deciding contest. And no Blackhawk fan will ever forget the Cup-winning effort against Boston, with two-goals in 17 seconds—all coming in the final 76 seconds of regulation time.

The 2010 champions saw their one-goal mark at 16-13-9 during the regular schedule, but were more dominant in the playoffs, sporting a 6-1 edge in games decided by a lone marker; the other 10 victores were by two or more goals. Recalling the 2010 series, the dramatic comeback in Game 5 against Nashville at the UC stands out: Patrick Kane tallied a shorthander with 13 seconds left in regulation, then Marian Hossa scored the winner in OT after coming out of the

penalty box.

The 1961 Blackhawks finished third during the campaign in a six-team league and had a modest one-goal game record of 7-8-17 in the days before overtime. But in the opening series against favored Montreal, the Hawks were 2-1 in one-goal games, which included a triple-overtime win at the Stadium. Then, in Games 5 and 6, Glenn Hall blanked the Canadiens, and Chicago went on to beat Detroit for the title in six games.

The underdog 1938 Hawks were 8-7-9 in single-goal matches in the regular season, but went 4-0 in one-goal games in the playoffs. The first Cup titlists in 1934 saw a 10-8-11 mark in lone-goal decisions, but were 4-0-1 in the playoffs, capped by an overtime goal by Harold "Mush" March and a 1-0 Charlie Gardiner shutout against Detroit.

If the trend continues this season, while it would be nice to see a few more wide margins in victories, the key to success will still be winning the "close ones."

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