There was no shortage of those who believed this would be a five-game series.
Well, they might be right.
But it’s Detroit with the 2-1 series lead and a chance to put the Blackhawks in a very deep hole if the Red Wings hold serve on home ice Thursday night and win Game 4 after they defeated the Hawks 3-1 on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.
So much for flipping a switch.
No one wanted to hear it when the warning was sounded here for two weeks that it’s tough to sleep through a playoff series and then suddenly turn on the power as needed.
But after a sluggish five games against Minnesota and two mediocre games with the Red Wings, the Hawks played hard in Game 3 and found it difficult to find their rhythm.
No one wanted to listen when Joel Quenneville said after Minnesota that the Hawks needed to raise their energy level to that of the other first-round series.
No one paid much attention when Jonathan Toews said the Hawks would need to play a lot better in the second round than they did in the first.
Mostly, it was the Hawks themselves who didn’t heed those words — and now they are in trouble.
And after losing two straight, the Hawks are a team lacking confidence, their customary speed and the ability to handle physical play, albeit against a team that is the least imposing postseason squad from a hitting standpoint.
So where do the Hawks go from here?
“We’re gonna have to be better than we were tonight,” Quenneville said, “but we were certainly a lot better today.”
Game 3 was scoreless about eight minutes into the second period when Detroit scored twice and took control of the game.
Off a faceoff win in the Detroit zone, Damien Brunner chipped it over Nick Leddy to a speeding Gustav Nyquist, who made Brent Seabrook look silly as he slipped it backhand through Seabrook to his forehand, waiting patiently as he drew Corey Crawford down and out and fired it home from a bad angle for the first goal.
Only 31 seconds later, Michal Rozsival turned it over in his own end and Crawford made the first 2 saves from in close before Brunner knocked it in for a 2-0 Detroit lead midway through the second period.
It was still 2-0 in the third when Niklas Hjalmarsson plastered Johan Franzen deep in the Hawks’ zone, and with Franzen sprawled out on the ice pretending to be hurt, Duncan Keith found Patrick Kane streaking down the ice.
Kane corralled a puck on edge and slipped it five-hole on Jimmy Howard to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Not long after, the Hawks appeared to tie at 2-2, but a bad call took the goal off the board as Andrew Shaw was ruled to have interfered with Howard.
“I disagree with that call,” Quenneville said. “He didn’t touch the goalie.”
A minute later, the aforementioned Franzen seemed just fine as he hit Pavel Datsyuk in stride. Rozsival, who had a bad night, got a tiny piece of it as Datsyuk shot and it soared past Crawford for the goal that really sunk the Hawks.
“That was the biggest play of the night,” said the Wings’ Dan Cleary. “That was the backbreaker.”
It took seven playoffs games plus two periods, but the Blackhawks finally found their sense of urgency in the third period of Game 3.
The good news is they played harder than they have at any time during the postseason and they dominated the final period. They hit iron three times and had a goal disallowed, and at times looked like the best team in the NHL, something that hasn’t happened much during the postseason.
If they play with that desperation from the start Thursday night, they will come home with the series tied at 2-2 and they’ll be back in control of the series.
If they don’t, they can start thinking about cleaning off their golf clubs.
źListen 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.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.