Uninspired Blackhawks fall flat vs. Wings
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If you think it's too soon to panic, understand that if the Blackhawks come out emotionally unprepared again in Game 3 Monday night in Detroit, they will find themselves down 2-1 and suddenly facing a must win Game 4 on the road.
Never mind a sense of urgency.
What the Blackhawks need most right now is a sense of reality.
And perhaps urgency will be born of that.
The NHL's top seed hasn't played a 60-minute game in the postseason yet and has not come close to matching the intensity the Hawks played with while trying to extend their record-setting point streak to begin the season.
It's been clear from Game 1 of the Minnesota series that the Hawks weren't emotionally ready to play, and the warning signals have been blaring ever since.
Coach Joel Quenneville set off the sirens after Game 5 against Minnesota, as did captain Jonathan Toews, but the alarm should have been sounded even earlier.
Great teams destroy mediocre teams. The Hawks merely got past Minnesota.
And after losing 4-1 to Detroit in Game 2 at the United Center on Saturday afternoon, the Hawks are tied 1-1 and have lost home ice to the Red Wings.
If you think it's too soon to panic, understand that if they come out emotionally unprepared again in Game 3 Monday night in Detroit, the Hawks will find themselves down 2-1 and suddenly facing a must-win Game 4 on the road.
That's how quickly series change in the postseason.
So maybe Saturday's lethargic performance is finally the wake-up call the Hawks needed, and perhaps they can flip that switch and play as they did when they were ripping apart the NHL in the regular season.
"We didn't match their effort or emotion," Toews said. "They outclassed us in those areas and you saw the result."
The Red Wings beat the Hawks in just about every way Saturday, looking much more like the top seed than did the home team.
"They have a really good club and they've been a good club all year," said Wings coach Mike Babcock. "We have a really good club now and we haven't been a good club all year, but I like how we're playing now."
Following Game 1, Babcock said he wasn't surprised the Hawks outskated his team, once the Hawks actually started skating halfway through the first game. But that was after Detroit survived a very tough series with Anaheim, not to mention the brutal travel schedule.
Now his players have found their legs again, and the Hawks have yet to regain their stride.
"They came out hard," said Brent Seabrook. "We didn't have the start we wanted."
Seabrook was slow to a puck in the offensive end after a faceoff win, leading to the Wings' fourth goal midway through the third that effectively ended the game. Niklas Hjalmarsson tripped on another, Patrick Sharp let his man get away on one, and Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith fell asleep on yet another as Johan Franzen sneaked in behind them.
Corey Crawford was to blame for none of the goals in Game 2.
"It was a totally different game today," said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. "It seemed like we were able to get in on top of their (defense) and get our game plan going, whereas in Game 1 — after the first period — they were all over us.
"I think Game 3 will be about whoever comes out and executes more and wants the puck more."
The Hawks didn't seem to win a puck battle after the first 10 minutes, and they will attribute that to a lack of effort, which is true — but Detroit also had a plan to frustrate and irritate the Hawks' top forwards, and they were very effective throughout the contest.
"Halfway through the game we let them take over and we didn't really answer their game," said Patrick Kane.
The Hawks were outshot 30-20 and the defense was also outshot by Detroit's defense 9-2. They continue to have trouble getting pucks to the net, continue to look for the pretty play far too often, despite claiming to be aware of it, and on 2 power plays they managed 2 shots.
"Across the board, we should all assume some responsibility that we have to be much better than that," Quenneville said. "I thought our game was way off as far as the pace that was needed, and we weren't smart in certain areas."
Quenneville had talked about the Hawks needing to catch up to the speed and emotion of the other series after dispatching Minnesota, but Detroit showed them Saturday that it still hasn't happened.
"I thought the first 10 minutes of the pace was probably as fast as at any point, but we didn't sustain it," Quenneville said. "We didn't do what we were hoping to do over the course of the last 50 minutes."
So after feeling good about a 4-1 victory in Game 1, the Hawks head to Detroit after Game 2 probably struggling to find their confidence, and knowing they are very much in a dogfight.
"Michael Jordan always said you try to steal a game when you start a series on the road," said Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey. "We did that in Michael's building today."
The psychology and emotion of a short series swings quickly, and the Hawks can be right back on top with a victory Monday — but they'll need to flip that switch and do it off the opening faceoff.
No one could be blamed after seven postseason games for wondering if they will find that gear again.
Not even the Blackhawks themselves.
•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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