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updated: 5/27/2014 11:55 AM

Is Blackhawks' tank finally empty?

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  • Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) watches as Jake Muzzin (6) defends Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (88) and Jonathan Toews (19) during the third period of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday, May 26, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Kings won 5-2.

      Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) watches as Jake Muzzin (6) defends Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (88) and Jonathan Toews (19) during the third period of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday, May 26, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Kings won 5-2.
    Associated Press

 
 

A year ago Sunday, the Blackhawks won Game 5 at home against Detroit, the start of a comeback from down 3-1 to the Red Wings, a series that sent them soaring toward their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

It remains to be seen if this team has the same all-encompassing need to win, but what's certain is that the 2014 Los Angeles Kings are in no way comparable to the 2013 Detroit Red Wings.

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The Kings are bigger, deeper and just as fast, with the added bonus of having won the Cup two years ago while being considerably healthier than the Los Angeles team the Hawks took out in five games a year ago.

But the Hawks have done it before. They know that. They also know it only takes one game to stay alive. They know it only takes one game to find the confidence and momentum they're clearly lacking right now.

If they find that in Game 5 at home Wednesday night, the pressure in Game 6 shifts back to the Kings, who will have no interest in returning to Chicago for Game 7 on Sunday night. Having done it twice in the postseason already, it's the Kings who know too well that a team can win three in a row.

This is where the Hawks are after losing Game 4 to the Kings in Los Angeles on Monday night, a three-game losing streak similar to the one suffered against Detroit last spring, when they also won the first game at home and lost the next three.

The 5-2 beating at the Staples Center has left the Hawks with one very simple question that each member of the squad must ask himself: Do you want to play more hockey this season?

It would be understandable if deep down some of the Hawks are just done giving, because they've already given all they have.

There is, after all, a reason no team has repeated in the last 16 years, and it goes beyond the salary cap and free agency.

For the Hawks, they can't deny what they've been through the last 16 months. No team in NHL history has played as much in such a short amount of time.

There was the compact schedule after the lockout last year. The ferocious pace of the playoffs. The deep run. The Cup victory. The shortest summer of all time. The fast camp. Another compact schedule because of the Olympics. The Olympic tournament. The busy schedule to the finish. And now three more rounds of playoffs.

The amount of emotional energy necessary to continue this run is even tougher than the physical part, which is obviously brutal, and if the Hawks' tank is finally on empty, no one could blame them.

Asked if his team was tired, Joel Quenneville said Monday, "No, not at all. I think something like that we would feel it. You would see it. I'm not giving in to that one."

It's the right answer. A coach can never offer his team an excuse, but Quenneville is no fool. He knows his team is on fumes, and since the 18-minute mark of Period 2 in Game 2 the Hawks have been outscored 15-5, with the number of mental mistakes increasing with each passing game.

Can they muster one more comeback? They did play a strong third period Monday, but it might not be up to the Hawks.

They have played with fire the last two years, continually getting into dangerous spots, and they may have finally run into the team that burns them.

Do the Kings want it more? So far in this series it appears that way.

Are they better? Well, they are deeper, especially considering some of Quenneville's lineup decisions that have forsaken youth and speed for age and experience.

No, it's not over yet.

But if the Hawks want a shot at repeating, they'll have to dig deep and find that 60-minute game that has eluded them for nearly a year.

If you're wondering whether it's possible, you're not alone. The Hawks are wondering the very same thing.

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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