Blackhawks still have time to find their swagger
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist May 27, 2014 9:09PM
at Hawks 3
at Hawks 2 GAME 3
at Kings 4
8 p.m. Monday
at Kings, NBCSN
7 p.m. Wednesday
at Hawks, NBCSN
GAME 6 if nec.
8 p.m. Friday
at Kings, NBCSN
GAME 7 if nec.
7 p.m. Sunday
at Hawks, NBCSN
Updated: June 29, 2014 6:36AM
Duncan Keith leaned on a podium last June and looked out at the thousands of people who had gathered for the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship rally.
‘‘Remember, Chicago,’’ he said in a Scottish accent, ‘‘it’s better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a lamb.’’
He apparently was doing his best ‘‘Braveheart’’ imitation. And even though William Wallace never uttered those words in the movie, you got the idea: The Hawks were the king of the jungle and would not, under any circumstances, lead small, insignificant lives.
What happened to that team and that spirit? Can both please come back immediately? And why are the Los Angeles Kings holding shearing blades?
It’s looking grim for the Hawks, who trail the Kings 3-1 in the Western Conference final after a hiss-poor effort Monday in Game 4. In a very real sense, this is about what Keith referred to all those days ago in Grant Park. How do the 2013-14 Hawks want to be remembered? As the proud defending champions who roared back to make this a series? Or as
the group that went away meekly?
It truly is as simple as that.
Game 5 is Wednesday at the United Center. The Hawks know how to push back. They’ve done it before. They did it when they were down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings in a second-round series last season and won the next three games.
They are one of the few teams in sports that can be better than everybody else simply by deciding to be. They are capable of acing a test without studying for it, and, as galling as that might be for the schoolmarms and hockey purists among us, it tends to come in handy when you’re where the Hawks are now.
Faith in them around town has been rocked, and the doubts are valid. The 5-2 loss in Game 4 wasn’t just any defeat. It was a soul-shaking loss, one that could finish off even the strongest-willed team.
Shall we review it? Shall we probe the nerve endings? Keith lost a puck that led to the Kings’ second goal. Brent Seabrook, out of position too often, had a rough night. So did Patrick Sharp, who committed a silly penalty that led to another Kings goal. Andrew Shaw did dumb things all evening. Jonathan Toews got killed on faceoffs. Various Kings were allowed to set up a neighborhood watch program in front of goalie Corey Crawford.
Oh, and the Kings outhustled the Hawks. It’s difficult to recall many instances when the Hawks beat the Kings to the puck along the boards. It’s hard to generate offense when you’re losing battles for that rubber disk. When the Hawks did have it, the Kings sealed off passing lanes.
It was awful hockey. Are we clear on that? Good. Now forget it. It’s time for the Hawks to pretend Game 4 never happened. For that matter, forget Game 2,
too. Time for some selective amnesia, fellas. If that’s not possible, you’re doomed.
Coach Joel Quenneville has had to answer questions about the Hawks’ stamina in this series. Ten Hawks competed in the Sochi Olympics. Put that together with the Stanley Cup run last season and these playoffs, and you have the possibility of fatigue. But fatigue doesn’t explain a 3-0 deficit after the first period Monday, and it surely doesn’t explain how the Hawks ended up playing with significantly more energy the rest of the game. Oops, we were going to forget about Game 4, weren’t we?
The truly great teams push through weariness. If the Hawks, who have won two of the last four Cups, want to be considered a dynasty, they’ll have to overcome sore bodies Wednesday and the rest of the playoffs.
The Kings are very, very good. Let’s not lose sight of that. They’re almost as deep as the Hawks and just as resilient, as their first-round comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the San Jose Sharks proved. But the Hawks are better than this. They’re certainly not as bad as the Kings are making them look.
We’ve been told that their abundance of talent might be the problem for the Hawks, that they rely on it too much. It’s only a problem if you prefer your teams to look like the Buffalo Sabres.
The Hawks can win this series. Will they? Ah, that’s the question.
But it’s time to get back to living like a lion.