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updated: 5/7/2014 12:02 AM

Blackhawks must beware of 'the trap'

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Every sport has trap games and trap series.

The Blackhawks are subject to both in their second-round playoff series against the Wild.

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Minnesota scored twice early in the third period in Game 3 on Tuesday night on the way to a 4-0 victory over the Hawks.

"I didn't mind our first 40 minutes," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Scoring first was big and the (Minnesota) crowd got electrified."

The Hawks looked like they felt they could play conservatively instead of aggressively, lull Wild fans out of the game and hope patience would prevail.

The strategy didn't work and now we have a series.

There's still not much to worry about with the Hawks leading the series 2-1. They should eventually advance -- now maybe in five games, maybe six, maybe even seven.

Ah, but ghosts are everywhere in Chicago sports.

Weren't the Bulls supposed to be better than the Wizards last week? Weren't the Cubs supposed to be better than the Padres in 1984 and the Marlins in '03?

Actually they weren't better, at least not in those given series. The Hawks are better than the Wild, but now anything is possible, especially in the NHL postseason.

Tradition the past few decades indicates that Chicago teams more often have been the trapped than the trappers.

A trap at playoff time is when a perceived favorite goes up against an opponent that isn't exactly high profile. If the Hawks needed a recent example, all they had to do was look back at what the Wizards did to the Bulls.

The Wiz was about as lightly regarded as the Wild is. Didn't the Bulls get lucky by drawing Washington instead of the Brooklyn Nets? After posting the Eastern Conference's best record since Jan. 1, the Nets were the prototypical postseason team that nobody wanted to play.

Meanwhile … Washington?

The Wizards, who haven't won anything of consequence in centuries, appeared to be a team nobody minded playing.

Well, the Nets did win their first-round series. But so did the Wizards and in convincing fashion … over the Bulls.

In other words, beware of what you wish for.

Not that the Blackhawks wished to get Minnesota. They didn't wish to play the Wild or any other team in the Western Conference. The defending Stanley Cup champs were ready for anything and anybody.

But the Wild just didn't seem to be as threatening as the Blues -- the Hawks' first-round victim -- or the Kings, Ducks or Sharks.

Sort of reminds of a couple of times the Cubs went up against a couple of opponents in a couple of National League championship series.

Both ended in a couple of the Cubs' more ignominious disappointments.

Those came in 1984, when the Cubs blew a 2-0 series lead to lose the series to the Padres 3-2, and 2003 when they blew a 3-1 lead to lose to the Marlins 4-3.

Maybe this is merely a lifelong Chicagoan reliving some sports debacles, but the Wild sort of is like those Padres and Marlins.

Back in '84 I had to phone a major-league scout to get a rundown on the anonymous Padres.

Back in '03, heck, it didn't matter. These were the Marlins. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior alone could dispose of them and get the Cubs to the World Series.

In other words, Padres shmadres and Marlins shmarlins.

Well, we know how that must have turned out considering the Cubs still haven't advanced to a World Series since 1945.

The only time I can remember this trap thing working in Chicago's favor was when the Bears upset the 'Skins at Washington in the playoffs after the 1984 regular season.

What everyone found out later was that Washington was a recent Super Bowl champion on the way down and the Bears were an emerging power on the way up to the following season's championship.

"Every series is tight," Quenneville said of the playoffs while looking forward to Game 4. "Let's get excited about what we could have done tonight."

Tuesday night was a stark reminder for the Hawks not to take anything for granted when the trap is set.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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