The Chicago Blackhawks are on thin ice. They enter tonight’s Game 5 down 3-1 in the conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings. They entered this postseason with hopes of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since 1997-98, and now they’ll need to win three straight games in order to keep this dream alive.
A look at how Chicago has fared when facing a 3-1 series deficit likely gives fans some mixed feelings. The Blackhawks have only dug out of this kind of hole once before. However, it wasn’t too long ago. Just last year, Chicago was down 3-1 to the rival Detroit Red Wings before rallying off three consecutive wins, including a dramatic Game 7 overtime victory. Despite staring an early exit in the eye, the Blackhawks stunned Detroit and never looked back, eventually winning the Stanley Cup.
So, recent history shows Chicago can’t be counted out just yet. Since the majority of the players in the Blackhawks locker room know exactly what needs to be done to pull off such a comeback, do they have what it takes to do it again?
For what it’s worth, they’re certainly saying the right things. Captain Jonathan Toews refused to count his team out after Monday’s Game 4 defeat, saying, “We’re still alive in this series. No time to feel sorry for ourselves.” Patrick Kane echoed Toews’ sentiments when stating, “We’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. We’re the only ones that are going to get ourselves out of it.”
At the end of the day, quotes don’t win a game. However, Chicago fans should be encouraged in the fact that the team doesn’t sound like they have their tails tucked between their legs.
If they do want to get out of this hole, though, it’ll definitely need to involve some better play all around.
Throughout the 5-2 loss on Monday, the Blackhawks didn’t exactly look like the defending champs. Chicago played sloppy early and often, something the Kings pounced all over en route to taking a 3-0 lead just 16 minutes into the night. Los Angeles has displayed some impressive offensive killer instinct this series, so if the Blackhawks want to stay alive, it’s going to require near-flawless play for 60 minutes or more each night.
Another thing needing to be addressed is the play of goalie Corey Crawford. After holding his own through most of the previous two rounds, Crawford has been getting shelled by the Kings. He allowed one goal in Chicago’s Game 1 victory, but 13 in the past three games. He’s now allowed just as many goals in four games against L.A. as he did in the seven-game opening round series against the St. Louis Blues. With the Kings firing on all cylinders, the Blackhawks can ill-afford to have Crawford continue his shaky performance between the pipes.
Despite all this, a major comeback isn’t out of the question for Chicago. The talent is there, as is the veteran leadership which is crucial for any situation like this. Couple this with the fact that almost everyone on the roster took part in a 3-1 comeback last year, and you’ve got plenty of reason to believe this series is far from over.
That said, these Kings are beyond dangerous. As mentioned, even though a comeback is more than possible, it’s going to require a lot of shoring up for the Blackhawks. They’ve done it before, and have no choice but to try and pull it off again. Only this time, the challenge is infinitely tougher.
We’ll find out if they’re up to the task the second the puck drops tonight.