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updated: 5/23/2013 11:39 PM

Blackhawks' dream season now a nightmare

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  • Give the Blackhawks credit for playing hard the last two games, but consider that about two weeks too late for a team that should have been flying coming into this series. Now, they're on the verge of going home for the summer.

      Give the Blackhawks credit for playing hard the last two games, but consider that about two weeks too late for a team that should have been flying coming into this series. Now, they're on the verge of going home for the summer.
    Associated Press

 
 

When push comes to shove in the NHL postseason, you either push back or you get shoved out the door.

Consider the Blackhawks on the outside looking in.

The dream season that began so promisingly and was supposed to conclude with champagne and a Stanley Cup parade looks like it could end instead with beer in the parking lot behind the local White Castle.

So much for dreams.

The Hawks' season is teetering on the brink as the Red Wings won for the third straight game, this time 2-0 in Detroit. The Wings have a 3-1 series lead, and if the Hawks aren't out, they are certainly down.

It's true that the Hawks won Game 5 down 3-1 in the series to Phoenix a year ago, and they won three straight after being down 3-0 to Vancouver two years ago, but in 86 years the Hawks have never come back from down 3-1 to win a playoff series.

In NHL history, only 8 percent of the time has a team trailed 3-1 and come back to win, though it has happened three times in the last five years.

"Just have to look at the small picture," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. "Going back home, just have to look at one game and that's it."

Of course, anything is possible, and the psychology of a short series being what it is, simply winning one game can turn a series around quickly, but watching the Hawks frustrated the way they are against Detroit, it's difficult right now to imagine them winning three straight games.

And if the Hawks do lose this series, it will be a long summer for captain Jonathan Toews, who has 1 assist in this series after having just 2 assists against Minnesota.

On top of that, the Red Wings -- the softest team in the league not named Chicago -- have annoyed, distracted and pounded Toews and the rest of the Hawks' skill players, a tactic that shouldn't have surprised the Hawks but obviously did.

It came to a boil in a scoreless game Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena, when halfway through the middle period, on the second of 3 consecutive penalties by Toews, the Wings cashed in.

Niklas Hjalmarsson went down to block a shot and served as a perfect screen as Jakub Kindl beat Corey Crawford short side just inside the near post for a 1-0 Detroit lead.

The goal with one tick left on the penalty was the first power-play goal given up by the Hawks in more than a month.

"The intensity is amazing out there with those two guys. You can see it in their eyes," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said of Henrik Zetterberg and Toews. "(Zetterberg) is doing a great job of getting under (Toews') skin."

Meanwhile, Howard has been spectacular in the net for Detroit, which has held the highest-scoring team in the Western Conference to 2 goals in the last three games.

It helps that the worst power play in the league continues to destroy the Hawks' momentum every time they have something going, and the Wings are smart to take penalties every time the Hawks have a good scoring chance.

So the Hawks can complain all they want about the refs, the dirty play or the bad luck hitting posts, but if you can't score on the power play, you can't win a beer league -- let alone the Stanley Cup.

"We obviously could have used something off it," Quenneville said of the power play. "Certainly, it would have been nice to get one."

But they rarely even got good looks, which is also nothing new.

"You look at both games (in Detroit) and I think we played OK," Quenneville said. "I think we just have to find a way to get more from everybody."

Effort was not the issue Thursday. In fact, give the Hawks credit for playing hard the last two games, but consider that about two weeks too late for a team that should have been flying coming into this series and instead was far too sleepy entering play against Detroit.

"We played our tails off tonight. We did a lot of good things," Toews said. "We just didn't find the back of the net."

Yeah, the Hawks came out flying Thursday and there's no doubt they'll do the same Saturday night at home.

They might even win game, but right now it all looks to be too little and way too late.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•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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