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updated: 4/19/2014 8:51 PM

Do Blackhawks still have will to win?

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  • Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford makes a glove-save against the Blues' David Backes during the second period in Game 2 on Saturday in St. Louis.

      Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford makes a glove-save against the Blues' David Backes during the second period in Game 2 on Saturday in St. Louis.
    Associated Press

 
 

Well, now it comes down to a simple question for the Blackhawks.

Do they want to keep playing hockey?

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Considering what they've been through the last 10 months -- the Stanley Cup, the short summer, the compact schedule and the Olympic tournament -- it would not be abnormal if they got behind in Game 3 and called it a season.

But what we learned from the Hawks last year is that there's enormous character on this club and a will to win that goes beyond what's normal.

They had any number of chances to give up during the postseason a year ago -- and simply refused.

On Monday, we'll find out what's left in the emotional tank.

The Hawks have now lost two games in overtime, one after giving up the tying goal with a 1:45 left in regulation, and Saturday the Blues tied the game with six seconds remaining on a 6-on-4, won it 5:50 into overtime and hold a 2-0 series lead.

"Tough losses," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. "We battled back. It was amazing we got ourselves back in this game."

Teams that win the first two in a best-of-seven have captured NHL series 86 percent of the time.

In the last 50 years, the Hawks are 3-24 in series when they lose the first two games. The last time they came back to win was in the opening round against Toronto in 1995, when Denis Savard starred in his return to Chicago and the Hawks had Game 7 at home.

"We'll get some excitement from our home building," Quenneville said. "Get one game and get some momentum back in our team game. Certainly there were a lot of positives to take out of this game."

Remember this is a Hawks team that came back from down 3-1 against Detroit a year ago, when teams had done that only 8 percent of the time in NHL history.

They also won Game 4 in Los Angeles without Duncan Keith, and lest we forget that in the Final against Boston they trailed 2-1 in the series after losing two straight and faced a Game 4 on the road, which they won in overtime and then took the next two to finish off the Bruins.

This time they will have to do it without Brent Seabrook, who's facing a suspension for his hit on David Backes that also left the Hawks short-handed for the final five minutes of regulation.

"We're a pretty disciplined team," Quenneville said. "You gotta have some emotion when you play St. Louis, and you gotta be smart at the same time. It's a balance thing, and you have to be smart about it."

The Hawks will undoubtedly be criticized for playing physical against a team that was beating their brains in, but they came back from a 2-0 deficit and grabbed the lead Saturday by getting involved in a game they had been sleeping through with a physical brand of hockey.

But hits by Bryan Bickell and Seabrook in the final six minutes were unnecessary and ultimately cost the Hawks at the end of regulation. Physical is good, but both players would probably like to have those back.

"I thought we were playing the right way," Quenneville said. "We got ourselves back in the game by being hard and working. We were playing the right way in the third period until that one went in."

It's an old theory in hockey that you can win a Stanley Cup with a bad power play -- and that's been proven -- but you can't win if you can't kill penalties.

So far, the Hawks have been great on the PK (12-for-13) but horrific on the PP, where they're 1-for-10 with 8 shots on goal in roughly a full period with the man-advantage.

If a team is going to take you apart physically and you don't make them pay on the power play, they will only be emboldened to take liberties with your best players. And after the hit on Backes, the Hawks better have their heads up in Game 3.

As for the offense, it's come almost entirely from the defense. Of their 6 goals, 5 have come from defensemen, the offense is invisible, and Patrick Kane looks like he's struggling to get his legs under him after suffering a knee injury a month ago Saturday.

Worse than the ending was the beginning for the Hawks on Saturday, as they failed to show up for the first 37 minutes, giving up 2 goals in the first period and one of them with less than two seconds left on the clock.

They've been outhit, outshot, outskated and outworked for most of the two games, and they've given an opponent completely lacking confidence the belief that they can win again.

One positive, at least, is that Corey Crawford has been brilliant, and he's the main reason the Hawks have had a chance to win both games, and he gives them a chance to still to win this series.

Short series are fascinating psychologically. Win a game and you change momentum. Win two and you get a team on its heels. So the Hawks are not dead yet.

But if you're looking for omens, Quenneville's strong 3-year-old horse, Midnight Hawk, tried to swoop in and steal a big purse Saturday at Hawthorne. It went off at 2-5, blew a big lead in the stretch when it looked like the race was over, and lost in a photo.

Perfect ending to a miserable day.

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.

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