Don't count out the Blackhawks just yet
May, 24, 2013
By Jesse Rogers
Dave Reginek/NHLI/Getty ImagesCoach Joel Quenneville is hoping one win can turn around the series for the Hawks.CHICAGO -- As dire as it looks for the Chicago Blackhawks, it would be foolish to count them out of their playoff series with the Detroit Red Wings even though they're behind 3-1 in the series.
You might not think it, but Thursday's Game 4 gave hope for a comeback in the series. The Hawks are slowly climbing back up the ladder after bottoming out in their Game 2 loss. In fact, Chicago outplayed Detroit in many areas Thursday, except for with the man advantage, of course.
"We're doing the right things," captain Jonathan Toews said Friday afternoon after an optional practice. "We're working hard, we're battling for each other. It just takes one shot. That's what we're looking for."
That sounds like a lot of clichés, but Toews doesn't spew things that aren't true. The Hawks know they played a good game in Game 4, even if you don't.
Yes, the Hawks can play and need to play better on the power play, but they can still win Saturday -- and maybe beyond -- even if their power play doesn't win it for them. The offensive chances were there Thursday night in Detroit. Brandon Saad on a breakaway, Michal Handzus hitting a post, Nick Leddy hitting another one, Toews running a two-on-one. The chances are there, now they have to finish them.
"Those chances are coming, at some point they have to go in," Toews said. "Just have to stick with it."
If the Hawks panic or make more sweeping changes, they're done. As crazy as it sounds -- in a shutout loss -- they found some things that work. A first-period forecheck caused nearly double-digit turnovers by the Wings. Most nights, one of those would lead to a goal and a whole different game, but it didn't happen. Then an early second-period power play actually drained the Hawks of their advantage in play while Toews' three penalties cemented the momentum switch to the opposition.
"I understand what happened in the second period wasn't a good thing," Toews said. "I was a little bit careless with my stick. It cost me, it cost our team. We're looking to have that controlled emotion."
So with those things going wrong -- from the captain having an awful night to Brent Seabrook getting quasi-benched and Marian Hossa having a tough game -- even with all that, still, the Hawks played a good game. The odds are they will be rewarded Saturday if they can repeat that effort. And they should. It's as simple as that.
"They obviously have it right now, but one game can turn everything around," coach Joel Quenneville said of series momentum. "That's what we're looking for. The big picture looks bleak, but we have two home games here. One at a time."
And counting out Toews is done at your own risk. He's never been in a position to be criticized as he is in now. It would be a shock if he didn't respond in a hugely positive manner in Game 5. As long as the psyche of the team isn't damaged beyond repair, the Hawks are not down and out.
"He's a true leader and everything that represents our organization in the right fashion," Quenneville said of Toews. "You couldn't ask for a better captain or better competitor than Johnny. Sometimes his frustration shows because he wants to do things the right way."
The Hawks have to count on that leadership now more than ever, and don't bank on that frustration showing up in the penalty box again. That's just not who he is, though he was for one night. If the Hawks bottomed out in Game 2, then Toews did in Game 4.
"When something goes well for our team, I think I get more credit than I deserve, and same goes the other way," he said. "When we don't play as good as we can, the same thing goes for me. I understand that's part of it."
So we can expect a rebound from the captain. But the Hawks still have to battle a galvanized Wings team. There's still a flaw in the Hawks' game, which has been apparent in the past three postseasons.
"At this time of the year, teams have real good, tight checking schemes," Quenneville said. "They look at our lineup or where we're at, teams are happy playing that type of game against us, and we have to be willing to fight through it."
There it is in a nutshell. The reason Bryan Bickell was inserted onto the top line, the reason general manager Stan Bowman might have some work to do if the Hawks don't win the next three games. They still don't have the right combination of grit and skill to win it all as they did in 2010. But that doesn't mean this series is lost.
"Everyone is counting us out except us in here," Seabrook said.
Maybe that's true, and that's just when a talented team can come together. The Blackhawks still have a chance.