MORRISSEY: Hawks’ points streak resulted in unrealistic expectations
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com March 10, 2013 10:45PM
Hawks wingers Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Andrew Shaw leave after the Chicago Blackhawks comeback fell short in a 6-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Sunday March 10, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
What did you expect? Points from now until infinity? A string of victories that wouldn’t end? World domination on a scale not seen since the Roman Empire?
Well, yeah. That’s exactly what you expected. And who could blame you?
There was bound to be a letdown from the Blackhawks,
who had gone 24 consecutive games with at least a point until Friday. It’s just that nobody expected the letdown to feel like wind shear at 30,000 feet after one period Sunday.
We should have known they’d roar back, given their recent past. Oh, we of little faith.
The Edmonton Oilers ending up winning 6-5, putting the Hawks’ string of losses at two. So, yes, you still can refer to them as the ‘‘streaking Hawks.’’
It was a crazy, crazy night in keeping with their seasonlong theme of refusing to surrender. They fell behind 4-0 in the first 10 minutes, which is like being three years behind on taxes with nothing in the bank. But, just like that, they went from spaced-out to fully engaged, from acoustic to electric.
That’s how they roll/skate.
‘‘It can be pretty easy to pack it in and forget about it and move on to the next game, but we know in this room that with the skill and firepower that we have, we can come back in any game,’’ goalie Corey Crawford said.
Almost winning won’t sit well with some Hawks fans, but that’s predictable. When you’ve been spoiled the way the team has spoiled this city, you tend to think the supply of success is endless. When the points streak ended in a loss Friday to the Colorado Avalanche, all it did was spawn discussions about the length of the next one.
I don’t want to say expectations were out of control in Chicago, but the line of men named Stanley who wanted to change their last name to ‘‘Cup’’ was long. The only one that made sense to me was the guy named Stanley Groin Protector.
The 4-0 deficit occurred because Hawks defenders were out of position again and again. You expected some drop-off after the loss Friday. You didn’t expect them to forget how to play hockey. You didn’t expect the Oilers to steal their milk money.
But after playing seven games in 11 days, the Hawks were due for a rough patch.
Most of us watched the game because we wanted to see how they would react after their first regulation loss of the season.
‘‘It will be nice to see how we respond,’’ coach Joel Quenneville had said before the game.
Answer: extraordinarily not well, at least to start.
After giving up three goals on nine shots, goalie Ray Emery found himself on the bench in favor of Crawford, who had tasted disaster for the first time this season in the 6-2 loss to the Avalanche.
But the Hawks exhibited the same tenacity they had shown during the streak, getting four second-period goals to cut the deficit to 6-4. On the first one, Patrick Kane beat nomadic goalie Devan Dubnyk to the puck, then walked in for the score. The United Center came alive.
That’s the Hawks we knew and will know again this season.
This isn’t a team that will crumble after a loss or two. Quenneville won’t have to have mental-health professionals standing by for his players. Captain Jonathan Toews won’t have to reach back for that last extra ounce of seriousness.
‘‘At least we answered,’’ Toews said of the comeback.
The streak had to end at some point, an unfortunate truth. But it was good being at the center of the hockey universe. It was an unexpected gift from a team we weren’t quite sure about when the lockout-shortened season started. Remember? Quenneville was on the hot seat? The Hawks didn’t have enough quality centers?
Then out of nowhere came a wonderful streak that turned into a national story. The Hawks and Miami Heat were trading streaks like boxers trading punches. Whose run was more difficult? Was the Hawks’ wimpier because they got a point for each of their three shootout losses?
Much fun was had by all.
On the other hand, now we can get back to sanity.
If the Hawks want to match the 24-game points streak, they’ll need the rest of this regular season and the first two games of next to do it.
In other words, completely doable.