Going into Game 3′s matchup tonight, the series versus the St. Louis Blues so far is eerily reminiscent of the Blackhawks season overall. Moments of brillance, moments of head scratching play, and everything in between.
All side stories aside, the Blackhawks are down 2-0 to a very good Blues team. I am not ready to write off the Hawks season yet as time and time again they have shown the ability to overcome adversity, but if they do not correct a few things we may not see the Hawks hit the ice until next October.
First and foremost is the Hawks need to return to “their” game. What do I mean by that? Possession, possession, and a little bit more possession. To the Blues credit, they have thrown the Hawks off their game thus far by physically engaging them. The success of last year’s Hawks squad was their ability to maintain composure and overcome the physical aspect of the game. When the Hawks try and go toe to toe physically with the Blues, well we’ve seen the results so far.
Secondly, the team needs to stay on the attack with the lead. Giving up goals with 1:45 and 0:06 left in the game is inexcusable and if the Blackhawks hadn’t turtled into a prevent defense, they are likely coming home with either a 1-1 series or 2-0 lead. Corey Crawford is not to blame for those tying goals, it was an overall let down.
Finally, the Hawks need to avoid any shenanigans. St. Louis is a physical team that often crosses the line when it comes to physical play and shots that are of the cheap definition. The problem is the Blackhawks are doing the exact same thing this series, and that is not something that won them a Stanley Cup this year. Whether it is going out of your way to hit someone, or taking stupid penalties, the Hawks have shot themselves in the foot by trying to prove their toughness. The Blues are no different than the Canucks of a few years ago in that they pull questionable tactics to throw you off your game. So far, it’s been working.
Stop the Shenanigans
For all the clamoring Hawks fans had after the Brooks Orpik hit on Toews for the need for the Hawks to play rough, well look at what happened. I’ll get to my thoughts on the NHL’s response to the Seabrook hit below, but I think it was possibly the WORST time to make a hit like that. It was a hard hit and something that is definitely going to get the league’s attention. If Backes doesn’t turn into the play, then it doesn’t get as much notoriety and as much as I dislike Backes, he was in a vulnerable position.
The problem I have with the hit is the timing. You are five minutes away from evening up the series and instead of sticking to your game, you go out of your way to make a huge hit. Now the Hawks had to spend the rest of their game on the penalty kill and to their credit almost killed the entire thing. However, when you are on the penalty kill for over seven minutes straight (don’t forget Bickell was in the box before it) you’re lucky if you escape with one goal given up. What Seabrook did shows me that the Blues are in the Hawks heads. If they weren’t then I guarantee Seabrook goes to play the puck instead of lighting Backes up. I know it’s the playoffs, but a 1-1 series sounds a lot better to me than being down 2-0 and “proving” your toughness.
I’m not surprised with Seabrook’s suspension. However, the NHL has the most inconsistent disciplinary system. The league has often emphasized that a one game suspension in the playoffs is equivalent to a five game suspension in the regular season. At the end of the year, Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo threw an elbow into the head of Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, something that reminds of the Torres hit on Hossa. Take a look at the video and let me know how many games you think Rinaldo got for this.
Four games. Now compare this to the Seabrook hit and tell me these both deserve equivalent suspensions. Never heard of Rinaldo or Ruhwedel? That’s why he only got four games. Seabrook and Backes are two high-profile players and in the NHL’s logic, if they make an example out of the stars, then the rest of the league will take notice. OK then…
The Seabrook hit was similar to Orpik’s hit on Toews. If one doesn’t merit a suspension and one gets you suspended for the equivalent of 15 regular season games, what is the standard then? There is no standard, and that’s why these hit keep happening. Seabrook deserved a suspension, but all other hits and questionable plays (Lucic crotch-shot to DeKeyser) considered, I have no idea what the league standard is.
As far as the extra-curriclar “wakey wakey Backes” comments, if you are beyond appalled and can’t believe something like that would be said, you need to spend more time around hockey players. They are ruthless smack talkers and a lot of things get said in an emotional affair that are likely regretted much later.
All for now, more for later.