By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — This is not a sophisticated hockey town, and Chicago doesn’t ask much of its team this time of year, other than keeping the party going as long as possible. Ideally, it culminates in a sloppy, sun-splashed parade with both spectators and participants somewhere between hungover and still drunk.
This is not Toronto or Montreal. We are not poring over shift-charts and line combinations, dissecting data from Corsi and Fenwick ratings or debating endlessly the umbrella power-play versus the overload.
There are only a handful of mainstream local media members who actually take the time to really consider the game, with the rest of the coverage mostly regurgitated burbling about effort and momentum that suffices with few tough questions asked. The red-clad revelers don’t seem to crave much more, and those who do can find it at boutiques like thecommittedindian.com, where hockey analysis is craft-brewed with a higher information content for a smarter, more critical audience.
For the most part, this time of year is “Yay, Blackhawks!” It’s logoed clothing and lamentable facial hair, fangirls in too-tight shirts, big television numbers and four deep at the bar. Blackhawks in the playoffs is event and spectacle, percolating on through the warming weather from one opponent and tavern to the next.
What stinks is when that perfectly good time is threatened by an 0-2 deficit and performances unworthy of celebration.
Are they really prepared to go out like this, off their game and acting like fools? Instead of another long burn to a Stanley Cup that could cement their teams of the 2010s in league history, this could be remembered instead for the coach’s $25,000 crotch-grab and the game-misconduct head-hunting.
The Blackhawks seem to have taken the Blues’ bait, lowering themselves in the process both in style and results. This is not what they are engineered to do, and not what they have done in other years before waving from the open tops of double-decker buses.
It’s hard to play a puck-possession game when the other team has the puck, and it’s impossible to correct that problem without winning individual board battles and securing opportunities in contested areas of the ice, every time and all the time. That’s how they win, and how they play over and past the post-whistle skirmishes and cheap shots. Other teams lose sight of what is actually tallied on the scoreboard, and the ‘Hawks end up with more goals.
Fans can’t feel good about Bryan Bickell’s obvious attempt to take out the knee of Vladimir Sobotka, nor Brent Seabrook’s aggravated assault of David Backes. Such things are more often done to them, not by them, and no sane person wants to cheer for thugs.
It’s good that the Blackhawks have had two third-period leads in two games, and it’s excruciating that they failed to protect each. They may still be the better team five-on-five and will come home with a chance to rediscover the identity that has won two championships – dominating play by limiting the other team’s touches, generating goals as a function of more good shots and staying above the fray of pointless violence.
This is all supposed to be a whole lot more fun.