Desperation time for Hawks now
Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews battles for the puck with Phoenix Coyotes' Boyd Gordon Thursday during the first period of Game 4.
Jonathan Toews handled the questions with composure and watched a throng of media depart.
Staring straight ahead, he put two hands on his face in utter frustration, rubbed the top of his head and then fired his hat on the dressing room floor in disgust.
He hesitated a few moments, picked up his cap and discovered another reporter ready to cross-examine the captain.
"That desperation we play with at the end, we have to find that from the start," Toews said, as he looked right past me and stared at an empty wall. "We better. We have to win them all now.
"But it doesn't feel like we're down 3-1 at all. That's the crazy thing. We know we could be up 3-1. And we don't care what anyone outside this room says. We don't care if the odds are against us. We know we can win the series."
Outside the room, it says the Blackhawks are down 3-1 against Phoenix in the series and facing elimination Saturday night after the fourth straight overtime game ended for the third time in the Coyotes' favor, this time 3-2 at the UC Thursday night.
It was another soft goal for which Corey Crawford will probably take the blame, but in reality it was on defenseman Sean O'Donnell — a surprise insertion in the lineup — for getting caught in the Phoenix zone along the boards just inside the blueline.
His pinch failed, Mikkel Boedker bolted with the puck and he evaded Nick Leddy in the neutral zone after Leddy turned the wrong way. To Leddy's credit, he chased down and caught Boedker, coming down hard on his stick just as Boedker was about to shoot on Crawford.
But Crawford was prepared for a fast play and a quick shot. Instead, he got a slow-rolling puck that slid toward his pads. Fooled by the speed and the location, he couldn't corral the puck, and Boedker poked it between Crawford's pads for the game-winner 2:15 into the extra session.
"I was playing it like a breakaway," said a quiet Crawford, shaking his head. "I don't ... I don't know what really happened. It was a bad look."
And now the Hawks are in a bad spot. A very bad spot.
They need to win three straight against a red-hot goalie in Mike Smith and a very strong defensive team that bores its opponents to tears and lulls them to sleep, waiting for mistakes and capitalizing on them when those turnovers occur.
"This series is far from over as far as we're concerned," said Duncan Keith. "Every game has been close, so now it comes down to the next game. One win at a time."
The Hawks have some experience with this, having been down 3-0 to Vancouver a year ago. They won the next three and lost Game 7 in overtime.
"These games are so close and it's a bounce either way," said Phoenix captain Shane Doan. "We can't let up at all. They will keep coming at us, just like they did to the Canucks last year."
That's probably true, but the Hawks wouldn't be in this position if they had stuck with the plan, which was come out fast, get pucks to the net and avoid dangerous plays.
Phoenix is the most patient team in the NHL and the only way to beat the Coyotes is to play as smart as them, and the Hawks simply have not done it enough.
"We feel like we can take control of the game, like we did at the end of the third period tonight, like we've done a few times at the end," Toews said. "We've got to do it sooner. We've got to get the lead and let them chase us around.
"We have to find the desperation sooner."
They have to find it Saturday night.
• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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