One of the enduring principles of sports is a defending champion doesn't succumb easily.
Hopefully for the Blackhawks, they have heard that even if it didn't look like it most of Monday night.
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The Kings shoved the Hawks to the brink of elimination with a decisive 5-2 victory in the Staples Center. Los Angeles has a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
Do the math and the Hawks are 1 defeat from their title defense being unsuccessful.
"It's not a good position to be in," Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. "It happens. We have no one to blame but ourselves, and we're the only ones who can get out of it."
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad for the Hawks to be put out of their misery after what now is 3 straight losses.
Jonathan Toews notwithstanding, L.A.'s better players have been better than the Hawks' better players. L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick has been better than Corey Crawford has been. L.A. coach Darryl Sutter has found more answers than Joel Quenneville has.
The Hawks appear to be a step slower than they normally are, but are they really? Or are the Kings just a step faster?
This doesn't look so much like a work-ethic problem for the Hawks. It looks more like their legs are churning as hard as ever but their skates aren't keeping up.
Regardless, what this added up to in Game 4 was L.A.'s 3-0 first-period lead that essentially determined the outcome more quickly than anyone could have imagined.
Now if the Hawks don't muster their reputed resilience and resolve in Game 5, the series will be over more quickly than anyone could have imagined.
The Hawks have passed this way before without passing out of the playoffs. Now they'll have to go into survival mode again but against perhaps the most formidable challenge that has stood in their way.
The encouraging news for the Hawks is that while they have to beat the Kings three straight times starting Wednesday night, two of the games are scheduled for the United Center.
But one thing and one game at a time. That's what players always mutter in predicaments like this, and that's how the Hawks have to play it now.
With no margin of error the Hawks must forget all the excuses available to them, including the one that they're tired.
Yes, fatigue might be a valid cop-out after the Hawks went deep into June last year on the way to winning the Stanley Cup and then sent 10 players to the Olympics this year.
But the Kings have played a lot of games the past few years, too, so the series pretty much comes down to who can fight through it.
The other excuse nobody wants to hear is that no NHL team has repeated as champions in this century.
Every year the champ fired and fell back, including the Hawks in 2011 and the Kings in 2013.
Workload? History? Whatever else?
The Hawks have to ignore them all now and simply play well enough that the Kings have to stick a dagger in their hearts to make them extinct.
Nothing says the Kings can't do that. They also have the heart and mind and soul of a recent champion.
Not only that but the Kings have momentum, more proficient special teams and deeper depth at center … to say nothing of a lot of very good players.
"Don't look behind and don't look ahead," Sutter said of the Kings' mindset now. "We have a travel day and then a tough game. We'll have to play better than tonight."
What the Hawks have to do is prove that they still have the will of champions -- in addition to the talent of champions -- to overcome whatever edges the Kings have established to this point.
"Let's try to be excited about being at home," Quenneville said, "and try to get the momentum back."
The task starts with the first shift Wednesday night in the United Center. The crowd will have to rev up for the national anthem and then energize the Hawks by sustaining the decibel level throughout the game.
The defending champs shouldn't ever go easily -- nor should their fans go quietly.