The Blackhawks have been pushed to their breaking point emotionally by the Red Wings.
Now, they’re at the brink of elimination.
This year, the Blackhawks hadn’t:
- been shut out. Not any more.
- lost three games in a row. Not any more.
And, unfortunately, it was the same story as the previous three games for the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
Coach Joel Quenneville tried to create space for his stars by mixing up his lines right away. Michal Handzus started the game between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, while Jonathan Toews was between Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell. Dave Bolland started on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.
There was good jump from the Hawks in the first 20 minutes, but they once again couldn’t beat Jimmy Howard. And that trend held for the full contest.
How does the “powerful Blackhawks offense” get shut out?
Kane was credited with two shots in over 16 minutes. Sharp and Hossa were each credited with one shot on net in the loss. One. Brandon Saad failed to register a shot in the loss.
The harassment of Toews continued, and his frustration boiled over on Thursday night. After serving 27 penalty minutes in 48 regular season games, he was called for three penalties in less than six minutes. He was better at the dot, winning 11 of 18 faceoffs, but was only credited with three shots on net and, once again, zero points.
The Hawks’ leaders in putting the puck on net on Thursday night: Dave Bolland and Handzus, who were credited with four each. And, once again, neither of them won 50 percent of their faceoffs.
Brent Seabrook has been a ghost in the series. After having his minutes cut in Game Three, Quenneville said the coaches were “looking for more” from the 2010 Olympian. On Thursday night, Seabrook skated 12:03, had two hits, and was minus-one.
When the top six forwards that were dominant the entire regular season aren’t putting the puck on net, it’s impossible for any of them to break out of an individual slump.
And the poweplay continues to be a laughingstock.
When your stars are slumping, and your role players are getting outplayed, you lose games. Now, the Hawks have lost three in a row, and have scored only twice in those three games.
There were a number of bright spots for the Hawks in the loss, however.
Corey Crawford played well enough to win a playoff game. He allowed only one goal against 26 shots. In the second period, Crawford faced 12 shots, many of which came while the Hawks were short-handed and with traffic in front of him. The one goal he allowed was just before time expired on Toews’ second penalty of the middle frame, ending the Hawks’ penalty killing perfection in the postseason.
Michael Frolik had a very good game. He was credited with three blocked shots, and (unlike the Hawks’ highly paid superstars) was able to create a few good scoring chances. Unfortunately, like everyone else on the roster Thursday night, he failed to convert. In the game, Frolik skated 11:28, of which 3:20 was on the penalty kill.
Bickell also played a good game. He brought a physical edge to the game right away, and three of his four hits on the night came in the first period. Bickell also continued to be the only Hawks player that showed any willingness to stand up to the extracurricular activity from the Red Wings, especially around the net.
Duncan Keith skated over 30 minutes, and his partner, Niklas Hjalmarsson, played a fantastic game as well. While Seabrook and Nick Leddy (only 8:38 on the ice on Thursday) have disappeared in the series, Keith and Hjalmarsson have played well enough to merit their top-pair billing.
And Andrew Shaw played better than the box score indicates. He won only two of seven faceoffs and his stat line only shows one hit in the game, but he continued to be the Hawks’ best net presence in spite of his 5-11, 180 pound frame.
Now the Blackhawks will come home searching for answers, with a crowd of 22,000 waiting for them to answer the bell. If they don’t, a disappointed United Center will empty on Saturday night for the final time in the 2013 season.