These Chicago Blackhawks have come back from a 3-1 deficit before. Or, well, some of them have. And those guys are going to have to lead the way in Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night as the Hawks look to keep their playoff hopes alive for at least a couple more days.
This series has been rough for Chicago, which dropped back-to-back games at home after splitting the opening pair on the road. Heading back to the UC with the series tied, 1-1, seemed like a very good position for the Hawks, and after leading through two periods in Game 3, optimism was out in full force.
Then the Hawks blew that lead and lost again in Game 4, leaving the team on the brink of elimination just four games into the playoffs. The Hawks will have to win three straight games against a very good Blues team in order to get to the next round, which is never where you want to be.
The frustration has been building, and at times in Game 4, we saw it boil over. Corey Crawford went crazy on Robby Fabbri after a collision and Andrew Shaw did some very unfortunate things in the aftermath of getting a crucial last-minute penalty. Shaw has been suspended for the game on Thursday night by the NHL for using a homophobic slur while in the penalty box in the previous contest, so if the Hawks are to stay alive, it'll be without one of their top forwards.
Chicago tried to get pissed, and instead of a win, they simply let those emotions get the best of them and lost their composure. That's usually not characteristic of this team, which has long been so good at keeping its cool and staying the course even in the face of adversity. Now staring at a 3-1 hole on the road against a formidable opponent, the Hawks need to focus on discipline and -- cliche be damned -- take it one game at a time. In 2013, they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat a very good Red Wings team in seven games. This group might look much different other than the guys at the top, but they can do that again.
It'll all have to start with a win tonight.
Key Question: When will Toews, Kane and Hossa finally score?
The Blackhawks' chances of winning a series without this trio producing are infinitesimal. Kane was the NHL's leading scorer by a sizable margin this season and the Hawks' first line with Toews and Hossa is usually depended on for reliable scoring. In the first four games of this series, that trio of stars has combined for exactly zero goals.
Now, part of this is without excuse. No matter what happens, your superstars need to score. Toews and Kane make too much money not to be the driving force behind Chicago's playoff hopes. Having zero goals from those two and Hossa through four games is an easy way to explain why the team is in trouble. If those guys never find the back of the net in this series, we can fairly easily make sense of how the Hawks fell short.
But it's also important to recognize how this has happened. Toews, Kane and Hossa have long been so good because they're able to create chances in addition to finishing them. In this series, they've at least done the former. Kane has a team-high 17 shots on goal, Hossa is tied for second with 16 and Toews is not far off with 14.
During the regular season, those three players together shot 13.2 percent. If they were shooting that instead of zero percent, they'd have about six goals in this series.
Except they're not shooting 13.2 percent, and not all of that can be explained by the stellar play of Brian Elliott.
Sometimes great players will simply have bad luck for a series. Every scorer in hockey is streaky. The best players don't get excuses like that in the playoffs, though. If the Hawks lose, the stars will deserve some of the blame. It's just important to recognize how they fell short, and it's not because they're not having any impact.
How to watch Hawks vs. Blues Game 5
When: 8:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBCSN, CSN Chicago (U.S.) | Sportsnet, TVA Sports (Canada)
Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra