So originally, I had planned this post as a rant about the missteps that have landed the Hawks in this hole. Mainly, it was gong to be a this-isn't-an-I-told-you-so-but-probably-is post about how this series was made so difficult on the night the Hawks traded Brian Campbell. I firmly believe that if 51 Phantom were still in red today the Hawks would have at least one shutout in this series. It's these type of games that his calmness under pressure would speak volumes, and how many times he would get the Hawks out of trouble with a quick turn or shift and skating the other way. But you know, the reasons for Campbell's trade are still sound, and will probably be even more sound when the CBA this summer calls for a lower salary cap without an equal salary rollback. Which could happen.
I thought I might sit here and wail about the coaching incompetence, which last night led to the scratching of a loyal, hard-working veteran, who's supposedly one of Q's guys, so he could keep Brandon Bollig around to waste all of our time by ripping off BizNasty's jersey. But whatever, that's not why the Hawks lost.
I thought I would be stamping my feet about the huge regression of Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson, as well as the unforeseen disappearance of Johnny Oduya (though I guess I could have seen those two Predators games as much bigger warning signs than I did). I could have thrown in the question of just where Patrick Sharp has gone, or maybe to point out the heavy workload everyone on the top end of the roster was asked to shoulder throughout the year catching up, and now they all look like Kerry Wood's shoulder. And maybe all of these are valid points.
But once again, after taking some time, having McClure talk me down (which happens so often I'm starting to get scared), and of course reading The Fifth Feather (who if they didn't have actual real life aspirations should have probably stolen The Indian from me long ago), I know what we're talking about here.
Two routine saves.
Not even routine. Rudimentary, elementary, pushover saves, and this series is probably tied if not 3-1 in the Hawks favor. Two saves, both of which came after 60 mostly excellent minutes from Corey Crawford. Two saves.
And it's those kind of saves that weren't made that have the Hawks here in the first place. Think about it: during the nine-game march into the gates of hell, if the Hawks had gotten replacement level goaltending, what do they go? 4-5? That's still a shitty record over nine games, but those eight points have them in the race for the division. Those types of saves being made instead of being whiffed could have the Hawks kicking the shit out of the Sharks right now instead of gasping for air against Phoenix.
We can sit here and point to that player or this reason or that mistake about why the Hawks are on the brink today. But in the end, it's two saves that weren't made. Two.
And that's why I'm sure there are a lot of you who still have a lot of hope for this series, and I certainly won't try to talk you out of it. This isn't last year where the Hawks were completely outclassed in the first three games by the Canucks and needed the Blue and Green to take a couple games off to get back into the series (and the Nucks did take nights off then). This series is still on a knife edge. The Hawks don't need something to be flipped on its head to turn it around. They need one or two things to go from slightly off to slightly on. That's it. To boot, the Hawks were in the trap last night that the Yotes always want to set -- two goal lead, and Mike Smith playing his best. And they still got it to OT where had Sean O'Donnell not pinched, Nick Leddy not forgotten how to play hockey for a minute, and Corey Crawford just...well I don't have words, they very well might have won.
On the other side, if you can't seem to turn any lights on in your apartment or look out the window such is your depression, there's plenty for you too. The Hawks have one line functioning, and it has two wingers who spent most of the season being burned in effigy by fans (that said, Michael Frolik could have been giving this to you all season had Coach Q not stuck his dick in his brain or simply had to have Scott/Bollig in the lineup, but I digest). They have one functioning defensive pairing, and that one is running on fumes thanks to overwork. They have a goalie whose confidence must be completely shot. They may choose to go with Ray Emery, who a well-coached and well-drilled team like Phoenix will get moving side to side and probably tear apart. We all know what it looked like against Nashville last year.
I don't know which is the truth, maybe it's both, maybe it's neither. But in the end, we're talking about something so small and so simple.