By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) Do the Blackhawks know something we don’t?
It sure sounds like it when digesting the postgame comments after their 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Kings in Los Angeles on Monday night. Despite finding themselves in a 3-1 hole in the conference finals, Chicago seems to think it’s not so bad.
“We still feel good about our team in here,” Patrick Kane said. “And we know we’ve done it before. We were in the same position last year, why can’t we do it again?”
Kane’s assist last night was his first point in the series, as he’s been marked from the outset. Denied space to skate and shooting opportunities, his influence remained minimal despite his new place on a remodeled line alongside Jonathan Toews. “Showtime” seems forever ago. If the Blackhawks can’t do it again, it could be due to an opponent simply not letting them.
“Teams have come back from this situation, even this group,” Toews said. “That belief and that confidence have to be there. We just have to go do it.”
Toews lost 14 of 21 faceoffs last night and managed zero shots on goal. He is central to the power play and penalty-killing units that are both getting clowned. The former was 0-for-3 on the night while producing just three shots and is now successful just once in 24 road chances in these playoffs. The latter has surrendered five goals the last 10 times it was called into action. Don’t count me among those surprised if we learn after the fact that Toews is among those dealing with some kind of physical problem, what with a full NHL season and all the Olympic ice time.
Duncan Keith turned the puck over to Anze Kopitar, who centered it immediately to the waiting blade of the unchecked Marian Gaborik for a 2-0 Kings lead midway through the first period. But no worries, right?
“We were in the same position last year against Detroit,” Keith said. “All we have to do is win one game.”
No Duncan, you have to win three games. All THEY have to do is win one.
I don’t want or expect defeatism from highly paid professionals who know how good they are at what they do and who know that they have overcome similarly long odds before. Per NHL.com, teams have trailed a best-of-seven playoff series 3-1 a total of 229 times, and 20 of them have come back to win. That’s a historical probability of 8.7 percent, which means we’re saying there’s a chance.
But the casual optimism rings oddly in the immediate aftermath of another a defeat so total, on another night of thoughtless penalties, lifeless special teams and silly mistakes. Defensemen turned into spectators in front of their own net, allowing Kings to crowd the crease and force Corey Crawford to try to stop too many shots he couldn’t see. Something could also be wrong with Brent Seabrook, who either can’t move or doesn’t want to.
Instead of actually improving their moribund play, it’s now just words, words and more words from a team on the brink trying to talk itself into a better place.
Here are more from Kane: “We know the power play has to be better. When we do get those opportunities, we’ve got to be excited about it.”
This was coach Joel Quenneville: “We’re coming off a tough night. Let’s get excited about being out there and turning it around.”
And finally the captain, Toews: “It’s time to bring it. It’s time to play our best hockey. No more waiting. Everyone knows and understands we can bring more.”
Those comments were all made on Sunday.