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Time for the Blackhawks to act rage-appropriate vs. physical Wings

Updated: June 23, 2013 6:38AM



Down two with 71 seconds left, the Blackhawks weren’t exactly out of Monday night’s Game 3 in Detroit. After all, just four days earlier, the Los Angeles Kings scored twice in 22 seconds at the end of the game to beat the San Jose Sharks. And just a period earlier, the Red Wings themselves scored twice in 31 seconds on the Hawks.

So Joel Quenneville sent out his big guns — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Duncan Keith. But he also sent out Bryan Bickell, who, in an 11-second span, tried to pick a fight with Danny Cleary, threatened to take on the entire Detroit team, then cross-checked Cleary to pick up a penalty and pretty much end the Hawks’ slim comeback hopes. Quenneville then sent in agitator Andrew Shaw, who crushed Carlo Colaiacovo with a clean hit in the corner, then ran around the ice going after anything in red that moved before being sent off with a game misconduct penalty. The game ended with Marcus Kruger delivering a big hit at the horn, and Michael Frolik fiercely following up on it.

Toews, Kane and Patrick Sharp were all watching from the bench.

“Do what you gotta do,” was all Quenneville said when asked about the strategic personnel decisions he made in those last 71 seconds.

The Hawks lost. But with Thursday night’s Game 4 a virtual must-win for the Hawks, down 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinals, they believe a message was sent.

“I don’t think it was frustration,” defenseman Michal Rozsival said. “I think it’s just more showing that we are going to be there, take everything and battle. We are there, and [are] going to be there and we are going to be fighting.”

Game 2 was a debacle for the Hawks, who were outplayed from start to finish. Game 3 was different. To a man, the Hawks were pleased with the effort and competitiveness they showed in the 3-1 loss. They controlled the puck better and for longer stretches, they outshot the Wings 40-30, and they had plenty of chances — Viktor Stalberg alone had an apparent goal disallowed and rang one off the crossbar. But after being the NHL’s dominant team all season, the Hawks’ current predicament hasn’t led to frustration, disappointment, or panic.

Instead, well, it’s sort of ticked them off.

“It’s a little bit of anger,” Rozsival said. “We don’t want to get behind 2-1 against an opponent like this. Everybody is kind of not happy with the way we’ve played. I think that’s a good thing. It can give us a boost of energy. Playing with a little bit of anger going forward, it’s not a bad thing. I think it’s going to help us in Game 4.”

Quenneville was glad to hear it, saying he “absolutely” wants his team playing angry as it tries to even the series at 2-2 rather than fall behind 3-1. But balancing anger with intelligence is key.

“Playing like that doesn’t give us a green light to take unnecessary or undisciplined penalties,” Quenneville said.

He undoubtedly has said that — in likely less pleasant language — directly to Shaw, who’s taken five penalties through three games. Before Game 3, Shaw said he had to walk a fine line between being an help and a hindrance. He then proceeded to take three penalties on Monday night.

As brilliant as the Hawks’ penalty-killing unit has been — a perfect 29-of-29 in the postseason — it’s obviously not a winning strategy to continue playing shorthanded.

“We need to be a little more on the edge,” Hossa said. “Like in the last game, I thought we had great intensity, lots of energy. But you don’t want to go over the board and take bad penalties, because you know they’ve got really good players on the power play. You have to be smart about it.”

Smart, yet angry. Controlled, but aggressive. Restrained, but disruptive. That’s the message the Hawks believe they’ve sent, even in defeat. That’s the style they believe will reawaken their team game, reignite their offense and restore their dominance.

It had better. Because another loss on Thursday, and anger, defiance and confidence might finally yield to genuine, justifiable, outright panic.

“You throw around terms like must-win and all that — I think every game in the playoffs is a must-win,” Sharp said. “You can spin it however you want, but every game is huge. You want to win every time you take the ice. Being down 2-1 in their building, obviously that Game 4 is really big.”



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