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updated: 4/21/2014 11:40 PM

Blackhawks walk tightrope again in victory

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  • Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews drives on St. Louis Blues goalie Ryan Miller during game 3 of the NHL first-round Stanley Cup playoffs Monday night in Chicago.

      Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews drives on St. Louis Blues goalie Ryan Miller during game 3 of the NHL first-round Stanley Cup playoffs Monday night in Chicago.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

Maybe the Blackhawks just needed to win a game.

Maybe they just needed to hang onto a lead one time and remember what it feels like to win a playoff game.

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Maybe it's the beating they're taking from the Blues.

Maybe it's the St. Louis checking game.

Or maybe the Hawks were just trying to survive the first game without Brent Seabrook.

Maybe.

And maybe this is just what the Hawks are in 2014, a team exhausted from the last 10 months of hockey and unable to play with desperation even when completely and totally desperate.

Yes, the Hawks defeated the Blues 2-0 at the UC Monday night, cutting the series deficit to 2-1, but they never displayed the energy that was such a hallmark of their courageous performance throughout the 2013 Stanley Cup run.

What they did was score early and pretty much go into a shell for the rest of the game.

If this is what the Hawks are, well, they may win again Wednesday in Game 4 and they may even win this series, but the way they're skating right now they wouldn't have a chance against a very young and very fast Colorado team, or even the Wild, not with the way Minnesota is playing.

Perhaps, should the Hawks survive this series, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will more resemble the world-class players they've always been, and not a pair of guys fighting to find their legs again after suffering injuries.

The truth is the Hawks are not a very confident or explosive team at the moment, and they're going to have to be a lot more of both in order to make this a long playoff run.

"Not a whole lot of room out there right now," Toews said. "That's just the way these games are."

Toews scored 4:10 into the contest when he rolled a puck through a disheveled Ryan Miller, and the Hawks carried the first 10 minutes of the game. But they stopped skating after that and it was all Corey Crawford the rest of the way, an empty-netter with 19.2 ticks left the only other tally.

"He was incredible tonight," Toews said of Crawford, who's been incredible all three games. "They put all that pressure on him and he was amazing."

There was all that pressure in the Hawks' end, and very little offense generated by the home team.

"It's tight checking on both sides," said Duncan Keith, who logged a game-high 27:27. "Ryan Miller is a pretty good goalie, they have a good defense and a solid group of forwards.

"It's playoff hockey. It's not easy to score. We had one, an empty-netter and they had nothing. It's a fine line between scoring and not scoring."

The line was the St. Louis blueline, a difficult one for the Hawks to cross.

"I thought we were on our heels in the third too much. They were coming hard and we didn't sustain any pressure," said Michal Handzus, who was terrific defensively again. "We have to be better.

"They're a great team and they played desperate trying to tie it. We are losing the puck a lot and they're coming at us with speed. We have to get it deep and play in their end a little bit more."

So the Hawks have made it a series, knowing they could easily be up 3-0 but also understanding that they haven't played anything near a 60-minute game yet.

"It's nice to get on the board. Obviously, it would have been a big hole down 3-0," Keith said. "We're back in the series. We'll get some rest tonight and tomorrow and get ready for Game 4."

If being down 2-0 in the series didn't make the point that the Hawks needed to play with desperation, Joel Quenneville sent the message when he put Toews, Kane and Bryan Bickell back together for the night.

That's the nuclear option. That's high anxiety. That's down a game in the Stanley Cup Final type desperation.

They know the hole they dug is deep. It's fair to wonder if the Hawks will have the legs to climb their way out.

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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