The Blackhawks are a better hockey team than the Detroit Red Wings. Or at least they have more talent.
During the regular season the Hawks beat the Wings every time the two teams played. And in Game One of their Stanley Cup Conference Semi-Final, the warriors of the Four Feathers dominated the octopus boys.
But Game Two was a mirror image of the first, with Detroit doing the dominating. And last night, the Wings dominated again.
Detroit beat the Hawks 3-1 to take a two games to one lead in the best-of seven series.
Never during the regular season did the Hawks lose more than two games in a row. Never. They will come out smoking Thursday night in Detroit. They will have to. Another loss will put them one defeat from elimination.
There are lots of reasons why the Hawks are in trouble. First, the inability of Hawks star Jonathan Toews to get going in this year's playoffs has crippled them. Were it not for their depth, which has consistently gotten scoring from their second and third lines, the Hawks would be in even deeper trouble. And frankly, their defense- a strength throughout the regular season for the team which allowed the fewest goals of any in the NHL- has stunk the place up thus far in the Detroit series.
At least Patrick Kane, one of the other Chicago stars, has come around. For the second game in a row, Kaner scored the Hawks' only goal.
Then, too, Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has been stellar. And the Red Wings are a team with a great deal of pride. The series with the Hawks- the last such encounter between the arch-rivals, since Detroit is moving to the Eastern Conference next year- could potentially be a source of long lasting embarassment. The Hawks figured to win rather easily, and the Wings know it. Combine that with the habits of a team which has spent a long time at the top of the NHL heap and knows how to win, and you have a prescription for trouble for a Hawks team that perhaps has had it too easy for too long.
The Hawks have to get a grip- now. Granted, Game Five would be back in Chicago. But any way you slice it, the Hawks- who, as the team with the NHL's best record in the regular season, has theoretical home ice advantage throughout the playoffs- will have to win one game at Detroit in order to win the series.
This is the time for the Hawks to do what champions do, and win when they have to. Wednesday night, we'll find out whether the Hawks are the real deal, or simply another Chicago fizzle.