The Chicago Blackhawks are not a team you’d expect to be beating themselves. Unfortunately, that seems to be the (partial) case.
Yes, the Los Angeles Kings have been playing exceptionally well in the Western Conference Finals, but the Blackhawks have not helped their cause at all, letting their deficiencies override their strengths and skillsets — and it’s costing them dearly.
Watching the games, it’s obvious what’s going on. Their struggles are a laundry list of everything that could go wrong: an anemic power play, offensive struggles, porous penalty kill, mass confusion, miscommunication, dumb penalties and general lack of effort. Lineup changes, speeches and other attempts to jump-start the team have failed. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews being put on the same line, strangely, did not work.
Part of that is indeed the Kings’ doing. So far, they’ve outplayed and outcoached the Blackhawks. But there’s also a different element: the Hawks just have not been playing the way they usually do. They came out hard in the first period in Game 4, but they could not sustain enough pressure, even on the power play. Their penalty kill was their undoing, as with their dumb penalties.
It’s also been that anemic offense; they don’t shoot the puck when they need to, they don’t get pucks to the net, and sluggish skating allows the Kings’ defense to smother them. On the defensive side, they’ve seemingly decided to let the Kings get bodies in front of Corey Crawford, which has led to the Kings scoring on Crawford.
The Kings are a very good team, and good teams take advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. The Kings are taking advantage of the Hawks’ struggles.
It doesn’t have to be this way at all. The Hawks need to regain control of the series in some way, shape or form. These Kings are not the Detroit Red Wings of last year, but the Hawks do have an advantage. The Kings have lost three straight games in each of the last two series. They’re a streaky team. Now is the perfect time to start that three-game losing streak that ends the Kings season.
The conclusion reached in these past three games is that the Hawks have been their own worst enemies. Good teams don’t beat themselves, but they’re helping the Kings do just that. Now the Hawks have nothing to lose. They’d better play their hearts out. Head coach Joel Quenneville needs to get his players to calm down, or else there won’t be a second-straight rally in Grant Park.