Blackhawks’ 3-0 series deficit releases the stress of expectations

Now that there’s almost nothing left to lose, the burden of hype is diminished.

No different than any Blackhawks postseason recently, this one brought with it great expectations. But the nature of playoff hockey is things can change quickly. The city that celebrated 17 Seconds knows that as well as anyone. Now Chicago is getting a different sort of lesson.

The Blackhawks are down 3-0 in their first-round series against the Predators after blowing a two-goal lead in a 3-2 overtime loss Monday night. A non-call for goalie interference on the game-tying score and Kevin Fiala’s game-winner were the latest in a string of heartbreaking moments that, over the past few days, turned the confidence surrounding the Hawks into doom and gloom.

Make no mistake, the Blackhawks are probably screwed. Yes, they’ve been here before, so they know how to conduct themselves and blah blah blah blah. But only four teams have ever come back from 3-0 deficits in the history of the NHL playoffs, and there’s not a lot over the first three games that would make you think a historic turnaround is in the works. It’s only reasonable to acknowledge how dire things are at this point.

Except now the Blackhawks are the underdog. If they lose this series, nobody will be surprised after the first three games. We could talk about how that’s a weight off the shoulders of the players, but it also feels that way for those watching at home. Now everyone can approach Game 4 and beyond understanding things didn’t go according to plan.

The downside here is real. The table is set for a sweep that would have large chunks of Twitter howling and meme-ing Crying Jordans on Jonathan Toews’ face. That’d be a fun way to end the season if it happens, in the same way traveling for 12 hours is fun after a weeklong vacation in Mexico.

But that also makes this an opportunity to watch the next Blackhawks game without stress in a way. If they lose, it’s the sweep you pretty much expected anyway, just close Twitter for a few hours. If they win a game or two, well, they’ve forced a Game 7 after trailing 3-0 before, so who is to say they can’t win four straight, right? RIGHT?

The 2014 Kings proved that when they came back from 3-0 in the first round, eliminated the Blackhawks in the West Finals, and won the Stanley Cup after being in the same position the Hawks are in right now. The series (and the season) aren’t really over.

Still, there’s almost nothing left to lose, and there’s still the faint possibility of everything going right. It’s not where you want to be as a hockey fan, but there’s at least one more game to watch.