You have to hand it to the Detroit Red Wings: they are doing everything right.
Not only did they shut down Hawks star Jonathan Toews yet again, but their physical harassment made him totally lose his cool. Three Toews penalties in the second period are anything but characteristic for Captain Serious. Granted, the one that hurt- a high-sticking call which appeared to me to be the best job of diving anybody has seen since the London Olympics- was somewhat questionable. But it set up a power play goal by Jakub Kindl that essentially cost the Hawks the game with one second left on the penalty.
"We'd like to keep him in the box," Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said of Toews. "He's not as good for them in the box."
The result: the Blackhawks- virtually unstoppable during the regular season- are one defeat from elimination in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Final score: Detroit 2, Hawks 0.
The second goal was an open-netter by former Hawk Dan Cleary as the clock wore down in the final period.
Other than Toews' lack of discipline, you can't fault the way the Hawks played. They had the better of the game most of the way, in fact. Each team had two shots get in back of the opposition goaltender prior to that open-netter. The Hawks rang two off the post, and another off the crossbar. The Wings hit the post twice- and the second time, Kindl's shot ricocheted between the post and Corey Crawford's outstretched leg with one second left on Toew's questionable high-sticking penalty.
The Hawks had not allowed a power play goal for the entire playoffs. Now they have to win three in a row; the next defeat sends them home for the summer.
This is a hell of a way to end what has been a magical season. But again, you have to give the Wings credit. The way their kids are playing, I might have predicted their demise as a dominant NHL team too quickly. And they know how to win; the Hawks- Stanley Cup champs only four seasons ago- seem to have forgotten.
The Hawks were down three games to one in the Nashville series the year they won the Cup. They came from a three games to none deficit in a first-round series with Vancouver two seasons ago to force a Game Seven, only to lose in overtime. Coming back is not impossible.
But neitiher the 2010 Preds nor the 2011 Canucks are the talented, disciplined squad the Hawks are playing this year. Saying that it would be impossible for the Hawks to pull the series- and the season- out of the fire would be going too far.
But merely saying that at this point it seems unlikely wouldn't be going nearly far enough.
Game Five will be at home and on national television at seven Saturday night. If the Hawks somehow win that one, they would still have to beat Detroit at Joe Louis Arena in Game Six in order to force a decisive Game Seven at the UC.
And it looks like at least as much of a longshot as the Hawks losing three in a row looked only a few months ago.
Here are the so-called highlights. They are not for the weak of stomach:
Also sprach Coach Q: