It’s always darkest before you’re gone — or something like that.
Blackhawks nation is in complete panic today as the hockey team faces an absolute must win in Boston.
A loss in Game 4 and the likelihood of coming back against the Bruins is about the same as expecting Viktor Stalberg to pull Zdeno Chara off Bryan Bickell — or the Hawks to score a power-play goal.
These are not the Detroit Red Wings, and a return from down 3-1 is not a prospect the Hawks would want to face.
So they must come home tied at 2-2. They must win Game 4.
Now, after being pretty much dominated in this series — with the exception of a couple periods — that probably seems ridiculous to most folks at the moment.
Understandable considering Boston is nearly flawless at home and the Hawks have been mediocre on the road.
But it can change quickly if the Hawks show up Wednesday night ready to play a 60-minute game, pressuring Boston’s defense from start to finish, willing to take a hit and unafraid to skate in areas where they know they’re going to get pounded.
The Hawks have done this before — most notably the third periods of Game 6 in Detroit and Game 4 in Los Angeles — and they certainly have the ability to do it again.
They seem to play their best at the rink when they’re on the brink.
It will take an extraordinary effort and probably a bounce or break, something to give them just a tad of confidence and remind them that they were the NHL’s best team until a few days ago.
“There were some areas in our game last night we were positive about,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday. “What we gave up as far as quality chances, 5-on-5 play, was very comparable. Special teams last night, they won that war.
“I thought we played the right way to start the game, but now we’ve got to find a way to win here tomorrow night.
“We’re in a tough spot. In the Detroit series, we found a way to get ourselves back in it. That’s what we’re looking for. Tomorrow is a very important game. Come up with a good result, we’re right where we want to be.”
It can happen that fast in a seven-game series. You go from on the verge of elimination to being tied at 2-2 with home ice in your back pocket, feeling good about life again.
“I think exiting that game last night, losing back-to-back games, it gets your attention,” Quenneville said. “We’re in a hole right now. We want to make sure tomorrow we prioritize the importance of that game and it’s a different level.
“We were in a tough spot Games 5, 6 and 7 against Detroit. We’re looking at it like that.”
If the Hawks truly understand where they are, you will see that desperation from puck drop in Game 4. There should not be any doubt about whether they want to win the Stanley Cup from the moment this game begins, something the Bruins know as well.
The difference is the Bruins are certain they will win at home, while the Hawks know they have to bring their best game of 2013 in order to make this a series again.
“You’re always more comfortable at home,” said Boston coach Claude Julien. “There’s no doubt about that. We’ve got to be careful how we use the word ‘comfortable’ because you don’t want to get too comfortable.
“This is a building here that we deem as our home, a home that we don’t want any other team to be comfortable in. It’s important for us to continue to play the way we did last night.”
So both teams know what’s at stake and both coaches will make certain the message is delivered, but one team’s effort will decide whether this becomes a short series, or whether it’s the very long series most of us expected.
Intellectually, there’s seems no path here, no reason to think the Hawks will handle a Bruins team that is perfectly constructed for the Stanley Cup Final. They are big, mean, deep, good in transition, brilliant defensively and have great goaltending.
But the Hawks have something that also matters this time of year. They have tremendous heart, and they have displayed that over and over again.
You simply can’t deny that they have won periods and games this postseason when they appeared to be done, but they are now in the worst spot they’ve been yet.
So, you must ask, do they have one more brilliant surprise in store?
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.