The Chicago Blackhawks can’t win.
The team does something right and they should have done it different; the team does something wrong and they should have done it right. Perhaps it’s the whole defending champion thing that has critics and the league ready to pounce on this squad at any misstep or perhaps even the genuine knowledge the Blackhawks have yet to play to their potential in either of their series thus far in this year’s playoff race.
Either way, Chicago showed up Sunday afternoon at the Madhouse on Madison, as the United Center is lovingly referred to by Blackhawks fans, and regardless of still not honing in on the higher level of play everyone knows what this team is capable of (if they ever do find it, whomever their opponent is in that particular series will be finished for good). Chicago played with an undeterred will to win, besting the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 and taking a 1-0 series lead.
While those in Los Angeles will focus on the “bad” officiating over a Brandon Bollig dive that put the Blackhawks on a power play and in turn scoring the game’s first goal, those in Chicago could find a few setbacks in today’s game to focus on themselves — mainly a disallowed Jonathan Toews goal in the second period that would have set the Blackhawks up in a 2-0 lead. In postgame interviews the team admitted the bench was a bit bummed at the call but definitely knew there was still plenty of time to fight.
Despite the validity of the call, the Blackhawks used the setback to take over the entire nature of the game on Sunday, seemingly calling a game, set, match to the whole ordeal before the final buzzer even sounded. That was a far cry from the team that was booed off their home ice by fans last week after a faulty first period against the Minnesota Wild. The Kings baited and the Blackhawks didn’t respond. The refs missed calls and the Blackhawks kept moving. It was a team effort reminiscent of, dare I say, last year’s championship team.
Now hundreds of minutes of hockey are still left to be played here; this series is still very much up for grabs. But the Blackhawks are good enough to win on sheer talent alone, which has become a detriment to the team’s determination factor, leaving them almost lazy at times.
You can’t win the Stanley Cup on skill alone. The winners of the Cup always have something extra — the will to fight beyond what the team is usually capable of. The winner of the Stanley Cup has to want it, and on Sunday afternoon in a mad arena just two miles outside of downtown Chicago, the home team finally started to want it more than ever.