Rest of Blackhawks can learn from Jonathan Toews’ resolve
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander May 24, 2014 11:22PM
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates with the puck against Alec Martinez #27 and Jake Muzzin #6 of the Los Angeles Kings in Game Three of the Third Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 24, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)
Updated: June 26, 2014 6:49AM
LOS ANGELES — The lead-in to Game 3 of the Western Conference final started with a recording of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler screaming ‘‘Dream On’’ as the video board showed the Kings winning again and again.
Soon, a real-life Slash came out to perform the national anthem, the mute guitarist being the only man in Staples Center — other than the Marine standing at attention next to him — wearing a hat. Could you lose the stovepipe for a minute, Mr. Lincoln?
At any rate, the biggest hat theme nearly belonged to Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, who came out with so much fire that he nearly melted the ice. His steal and goal 5:26 into the game — while the Hawks were short-handed, no less — was a thing of skill, beauty and desire. Charging down the ice from the left side, he hesitated like a piston missing a stroke and buried a shot past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later, Toews anchored himself to the right of the Kings’ net, kicked the puck to his stick and put it past a frozen Quick to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. The kind of mental and physical strength it takes to stay where no foe wants you to be are the qualities that define ‘‘Captain Serious.’’
Toews had two more scoring chances in the first 20 minutes, and the thought of a first-period hat trick was a dreamy one. No, it didn’t happen.
His passion, though, was undiminished. Asked before the game about the Hawks’ 6-2 stinker in Game 2 and whether their faith had been shaken by it, he looked out with his dark, smoldering eyes.
‘‘It’s about how bad we want it,’’ he shot back. ‘‘That’s that.’’
So what about it, you other Hawks? You want it?
All the momentum from Toews’ stunning first goal Saturday vanished when Kings defenseman Slava Voynov blasted a missile past Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to tie the score 50 seconds later. Maybe Voynov was cranked up thinking about the modern house he just bought for $2.6 million in Redondo Beach.
It’s possible Jeff Carter was jacked up thinking about his new house when he scored the Kings’ second goal eight minutes into the second period to tie the score again. According to the Los Angeles Times, Carter’s little sand crib in Hermosa Beach cost him $5.25 million.
These Kings aren’t paupers. For now, though, they’re rulers. They went on to win 4-3 and are up two games to one.
The question is, why do the Hawks do great things early, then seem to turn into another team? Would it have been asking too much of them to feed off Toews’ intensity and keep piling on, to be the bullies and not the patsies? Their third periods are starting to resemble nap time in kindergarten. Shots seem to be as hard to get off as that last curl in a set of 30.
Are the Hawks tired? Are they only capable of full ignition when facing disaster?
They didn’t want to lose this game after being ahead twice. They didn’t want to lose this game in any fashion.
‘‘It’s disappointing,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘Tough breaks that turn into goals. That’s the story the last couple of games.’’
Not entirely. Patrick Sharp’s meaningless goal with five seconds left might have helped him get out of his personal scoring funk. But it was, indeed, meaningless, giving the Hawks only five goals to the Kings’ 10 in the last two games.
So Game 4 on Monday, when maybe Axl Rose or the wacky duo of Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano will be performing the national anthem, becomes a very serious game. Go down 3-1 before returning to the United Center, and the Hawks will be in jeopardy of seeing their quest for a dynasty end.
It’s clearly confusing to them.
‘‘They’ve got a lot of speed,’’ Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said of the Kings, trying to explain what happened. Then he added: ‘‘We have speed, as well.’’
The question is, do they have the dream?