Chicago Blackhawks have reasons to be confident
Panic is setting in across Blackhawks Nation.
Defenseman Johnny Oduya has an upper-body injury. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews haven't scored since December -- OK, in three games. Tampa Bay apparently has a superhuman goalie.
So, of course, the season's over. Hawks are toast. It was a nice run.
Blah, blah, blah … yack, yack, yack.
Let's all just take a deep breath for a second.
Or R-E-L-A-X, as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers so famously said after his team got off to a 1-2 start last season.
Remember when the sky was falling after the Hawks lost Game 1 of the Western Conference finals to Anaheim? Or Game 3? Or Game 5?
Or how about last year when they lost the first two games to the Blues in the first round, yet came back to win the next four?
And then there was 2013 when the Hawks stormed back to beat the Red Wings after falling into a 3-1 hole, then claimed the Cup after erasing the same 2-1 deficit they face now.
Toews had the exact same thoughts as he met the media Tuesday at the United Center.
"Obviously we don't draw it up in some situations when we get down in a series. It's not part of the plan," he said. "But I think we have confidence when we get in those situations that we can take it one game at a time, focus on the next game, continue to put pressure on the other team."
Feeling a little better now?
There are plenty of more reasons for optimism, the top one being that Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is clearly hobbled. His ability to move laterally seems to be the biggest problem, so if the Hawks can zip the puck back and forth across the ice -- as they did on Brandon Saad's goal early in the third period -- they ought to really light up the scoreboard.
Another reason to be optimistic is how well the Hawks played in the first period Monday. They had 18 shots on goal in less than 16 minutes and easily could have been up 4-1 at that point. They weren't, thanks in part to some bad luck and in part to Bishop, but you have to think the law of averages is going to catch up with Tampa Bay.
Finally, let's talk about Toews and Kane. There's plenty of moaning that neither has scored in the Final, but as Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper so accurately stated Tuesday, it's really hard to score every night -- or every other night -- in the NHL.
Toews and Kane have combined for 19 goals and 19 assists in 20 games this postseason. Their time is coming. Personally, I'd put them back together, but it's also difficult to argue with how the Hawks dominated at times during Game 3 with them split up.
"Through three games, they've had their chances, had decent looks," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we're going to need our top guys to be productive. Like we always say, we don't care who scores for our team.
"But they usually lead the charge."
I expect to see the Hawks play one of their best games of the season Wednesday at the United Center.
And Quenneville does, too.
"I think we should be exiting Game 2 and Game 3 with anger, a lot of emotions," he said. "There's got to be purpose behind it. We've had some history of being in situations where we've been in the exact same spot.
"I think there's confidence in the group that we're able to (come back). I'm worried about one game. And we haven't seen our best yet."
If we do Wednesday, it'll be a best-of-three -- with those Game 2 and Game 3 losses all but forgotten -- as the series heads back to Tampa Bay with all the pressure squarely on the Lightning.