As the horn announced the end of the first period on Saturday, I got up from my seat at the United Center and high-tailed it towards the restroom. The Chicago Blackhawks had taken a 1-0 lead on the Detroit Red Wings in the second game of their best-of-seven semifinal series, and I was feeling alright. Yet as I got stuck in the inevitable line that forms for the bathroom between periods I couldn’t help but notice my fellow analysts making the same comments.
“I can’t believe we’re winning.”
“They outshot us 12-8 that period.”
“Jonathan Toews better wake up.”
Well we all know what happened following the intermission, and for the sake of brevity I’ll sum it up like this: all the dudes in the bathroom were dead on.
The Hawks got beat 4-1 at home and are now facing a very different team than the one they swept in the regular season. If they can’t figure out a way to maintain their playoff intensity for 60 minutes, they’re going to find themselves stuck in a long, brutal series that they may not survive.
Now can the problem be fixed? Absolutely. See highlights of game one in case you find yourself questioning their ability, however as the series switches back to Detroit it’s going to be crucial that the captain makes his presence felt on the ice.
Toews had 23 goals during the regular season which was good for fifth in the league and tied for tops on the team along with Patrick Kane. Unfortunately for the third straight year now Toews is once again struggling in the playoffs.
Over the course of the last three postseasons, Toews has scored only three goals and is currently stuck in an eight-game drought that dates to last year. He had seven goals in each of his first two playoff campaigns (2009,2010), which eventually brought Lord Stanley back to Chicago for the first time in 49 years, however since then it might be fair to say that the collective weight of millions of hungry Hawks fans could be affecting his game.
Chicago needs Toews to put the puck on net and get scrappy in front of the crease. When he’s got his offensive game going it seems to inspire his play on the defensive side of the puck, and normally the opposing teams’ top guys find themselves struggling to get good, clean looks.
If Toews and his mates on the first line can get back to neutralizing Detroit’s top guys—Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen come to mind—then the Hawks can rely on their tremendous depth to keep the pressure on offensively.
I’ve been dreading the idea of sitting down and giving Detroit any credit for their win on Saturday so I’ve decided to go with my guys in the bathroom and put it on El Capitan:
If Jonathan Toews wakes up, the Wings will most likely find themselves being put to bed.