So here we are again.
The Chicago Blackhawks are at a crossroads heading into Wednesday's Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins. Down 2-1 in the series, all is not lost for the Hawks, but in some ways it seems like it is.
Unable to score a goal in Game 3, unable to win a faceoff and unable to simply look professional on the power play, the Hawks looked completely out of sync. The Bruins undoubtedly had something to do with that, as did the last-minute loss of star forward Marian Hossa. The Bruins have slowly taken control of the series over the past two games. They've gotten better while the Hawks have gotten worse.
"We're in a tough spot," coach Joel Quenneville said in Boston on Tuesday. "In the Detroit series, we found a way to get ourselves back into it. That's what we're looking for."
Yes, the comeback win against the Red Wings in Round 2 is reason for inspiration, specifically Game 6. The Hawks were down a goal entering the third period and found a way to win. Their next big win in the playoffs came in Round 3 against the Los Angeles Kings. Up 2-1 in the series, defenseman Duncan Keith was suspended for Game 4 about 24 hours before game time. But the Hawks gutted out a victory.
Now comes Game 4 in Boston.
With "Hossa-gate" seemingly behind them, the Hawks need one of those signature efforts, one that will put the woes of Game 2 and 3 in the past. It might sound simple, but winning a faceoff would be a start.
"I think across the board, we've been watching the group of centermen here, digesting it, dissecting it, knowing we have to be better as well," Quenneville said.
In other words, the Hawks are trying to figure out what can be done in the faceoff circle. Imagine how much more they would have had the puck if they had won just half the draws in Game 3. That would be 12 more times they started with the puck. It makes a difference.
But winning a faceoff is just the start; the Hawks need to raise how they compete. They need to fight through traffic and start skating again. Game 2's first period is the model.
It starts with the star players. Boston's Selke finalist Patrice Bergeron has shown up, having a game for the ages Monday. Now it's time for the Selke winner, Jonathan Toews, to do the same. No longer is it simply enough to contribute on one end of the ice. Bergeron is doing it on offense and defense, and so can Toews.
If we find out he's hurting after the series, then he might have an excuse, but just the fact that people are wondering "what's wrong with Toews?" is an indication he's not himself. It doesn't take a hockey expert to see that, although he hasn't been as bad as many might think.
When a team isn't scoring, it can look lifeless. One goal over the past two games is proof. Chicago scored that goal in the one period everyone acknowledges was its best, in Game 2. Now is the time to find that mojo again -- and keep it for 60 minutes this time.
"We're going to need urgency. We're going to need desperation. We're going to have to play a solid 60 minutes every shift," Brent Seabrook said. "Every second of [Wednesday's] game is going to be important for us to be at our best. We've got to come out and answer the bell."
Talk is cheap; actions speak louder. But the Hawks know this because they've been here before. They are recent Stanley Cup champions that have faced their share of adversity lately but come out on top. Those types of teams don't and shouldn't just go away quietly.
The Hawks need to take a stand and reverse the momentum of the series. There's little doubt they have the ability to do so -- but winning the first faceoff might help.