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updated: 4/19/2017 11:06 AM

Rozner: Suddenly, Blackhawks looking old, slow

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  • Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (skates to the bench as Nashville Predators player celebrate after Predators left wing Kevin Fiala scored the winning goal during overtime in Game 3 in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators won 3-2 to take a 3-0 lead in the series.

    Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (skates to the bench as Nashville Predators player celebrate after Predators left wing Kevin Fiala scored the winning goal during overtime in Game 3 in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators won 3-2 to take a 3-0 lead in the series.
    Associated Press

 
 

It's unthinkable, really.

To have been around these parts for the last decade, it's shocking to consider the possibility.

Makes you think of the early scene in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," when Paul Newman suggests to Robert Redford that, well, the unthinkable could happen.

"I'm over the hill, but it can happen to you," Butch says to Sundance. "Every day you get older. Now that's a law!"

It is a law. And it feels like the Blackhawks might be victims of the laws of nature.

It's possible they have gotten old before our eyes.

Seems ridiculous, right?

The Hawks were the best team in hockey for two months, in February and March, when they took apart the NHL and stormed to the top of the Western Conference.

That was a very good hockey team, good enough to win it all again.

But they took off the last two weeks of the regular season and then forgot to start the series at home in Games 1 and 2.

Nashville did not.

This would be a very different series right now if the Hawks had played those two games, but they didn't bother.

Hey, that's human nature, too.

The Hawks have won three Stanley Cups and they've done it on their own time and at their own pace.

There have been many series when they got started precisely when they felt like getting started.

But the truth is when they tried to get it going in Game 2, nothing happened.

Engine failure.

In the past, the Hawks have hit the gas and floored it, and the results have been breathtaking.

Now, it looks like they can't catch their breath.

In Game 3 Monday night, when they had a lead they couldn't hold it because Nashville played younger, faster, rougher and better.

Of course, in the past the Hawks had more depth and better players, and if that was Patrick Sharp in his prime -- or Brandon Saad or Andrew Shaw -- instead of Nick Schmaltz in his rookie year, maybe the Hawks would have been up 3-0 and that game would have been over.

That's a function of the salary cap and that's just the way it is.

Parity is Gary Bettman's dream come true.

But it's worth considering that the Hawks, after a decade of dominance, are simply worn out.

Their best players play in the Olympics, the World Cup, the All-Star Games and every other silly thing you can think of, while also having to carry a roster filled with spare parts and young kids, who look shaky at best on the big stage.

It's a heavy lift for the veteran core.

Jonathan Toews hasn't done a thing in three games and looks lifeless.

Patrick Kane, outside of a few shifts Monday night, has been invisible.

If Artemi Panarin has played a shift, no one can remember it.

Artem Anisimov couldn't hit water if he were standing knee-deep in the ocean and fell face first into something wet, and his exploits in the dot are far past laughable.

The defense, well, it's unfair to expect much from Brian Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk since they were bad all season, and maybe Johnny Oduya isn't even healthy yet.

Niklas Hjalmarsson is doing all he can, but Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are supposed to carry the back end, and they've been awful.

Let's face it, those three can't move their feet with Nashville's offense, and if that's the new reality it's a scary look at the future.

Of them all, 38-year-old Marian Hossa has probably been the best player for three games, and even Hossa -- as smart and responsible as they come -- committed a terrible turnover at the opposition blueline that led to the game-winner in overtime.

Look, it's possible that the Hawks have simply been unlucky, but it doesn't feel like it watching these games when the Hawks are outskated, outworked, outhit and outplayed nearly from start to finish.

The Hawks haven't won a single period in this series. To suggest anything else is to be delusional.

Maybe they'll make a series of it yet. Maybe they'll come out in Game 4 and be a different team than they've been through the first three.

They did it in 2011 when they came back from down 3-0 against Vancouver and lost in overtime of Game 7, but based on the first three games it's difficult to be optimistic.

The harsh reality is the Hawks have looked old and slow, while Nashville has looked young and fast.

It's reminiscent of another western, "No Country for Old Men," at the end of the movie when Ellis says to Ed, "Whatcha got ain't nothin' new. This country's hard on people. You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

Maybe Game 4 will be different. Maybe the rest of this series will be different. Maybe next year will be different. Maybe it's just a fluke.

But the Hawks are on the verge of going out in the first round for the second straight season.

Maybe, just maybe, they can't stop what's coming.

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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