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Blackhawks Mon Apr 21 2014
Coming into the first-round series against the St. Louis Blues, the Hawks preached how it was important not to fall into the trap of getting too frustrated against a tough team. During the 2013 championship season, and all throughout this last regular season, the Hawks were successful by way of outskating and outshooting their opponents, which more times than not led to a victory or, at the very least, a point.
Since last Thursday night's opener against the Blues, there have been costly obscene gestures, a brutal hit by Brent Seabrook on David Backes, which will cost him the next three games, multiple penalty kills -- all of which have contributed to an 0-2 series deficit. And while the Hawks seem a little out of sorts in falling into the Blues' style of play, it's their inability to close -- a problem they've had all season -- that has Hawks fans asking if this actually is their year.
First the Seabrook hit: it was bad, scary and probably a little too violent for what he intended. But the penalty was called after Backes's head nearly went through the partition. You could tell Seabrook felt a little shaken afterwards in what ended up being his first serious incident in his career.
Backes, no stranger to questionable hits himself, will more than likely be out the remainder of the series and that didn't help Seabrook's case for anything less than three games. With that said, Sheldon Brookbank more than likely will take Seabrook's spot in the lineup and will hopefully make good from last season's playoff appearance in Duncan Keith's spot (suspension).
The Hawks are still a good enough team to win without Seabrook; it's not like he's been lighting it up this year anyway. His seat on the couch during the Sochi Games was proof enough of a down year for an all-world defenseman. It's too bad, too -- Seabrook seemed to be coming around these last two games against the Blues, prior to the hit (one goal, minimal turnovers).
What should worry Hawks fans more is the lack of hustle down the stretch. It's as though they fall into a prevent zone, much like Lovie Smith's Bears did during his tenure as head coach. Yes, if you have the talent it will work most of the time, but this isn't how a good defense like the Hawks should play.
In Game 1, the Hawks rallied big time in the first period, scoring three goals in just over seven minutes. They took a 3-2 lead all the way late into the third period. Then, with just 1 minute, 45 seconds remaining in the game, Jaden Schwartz flipped in a backhander after Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya failed to clear the puck out of the zone to tie the game at three. Another two periods later, Alexander Steen ended it in the third overtime to give the Blues the 4-3 win.
Then in Game 2, as the Hawks nursed another 3-2 lead in the third period, despite killing of penalty after penalty, Vladimir Tarasenko fired a wrist shot that snuck between Toews, Marian Hossa, Oduya and Hjalmarsson with 6.4 seconds remaining from the Hawks tying the series up at a game a piece. You know the rest of the story.
For those doing the math, that a combined 1 minute, 52 seconds the Hawks were from being up two games to nothing as opposed to the fairly deep hole they currently face. And it's not as though the Hawks are finished -- far from it, in fact. The next two games are back home where the Hawks went 27-7-7 this last year. Yes, losing Seabrook will hurt some, but a collective head from the entire team is what is needed in order to beat this team.
If the Hawks can get back to that, they should be able to tie things up before heading back to St. Louis. If not, they'll have all summer to think about it.