Inconsistent Hawks facing first playoff adversity

The Blackhawks won the first shift of Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series, and that was pretty much it.

The Red Wings won almost everything else --- the tempo, the style, the puck, and most importantly, the game.

This is what adversity looks like for the Hawks for the first time this postseason.

The Wings said they would skate better than they did in Game 1. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said it, too. If only Hawks players had listened.

It wasn’t a slaughter, but it reflected a massive failure in the Hawks’ puck-possession game and skating. In my country, we call that a hockey identity. The Wings stole the identity that the Hawks had stolen from them first. Fact is, Games 1 and 2 of this series were the same game with different winners.

With home ice, more stars and better depth, the Hawks should’ve controlled play. Instead, they couldn’t keep up. Embarrassing.

The Hawks’ best players weren’t their best players. They barely were there.

It was hard to find Marian Hossa, even as big as he is.

I noticed Jonathan Toews because NBC highlighted the abuse he took.

Patrick Kane scored on a play started by Patrick Sharp, and that was about all I remember of their play, but it must’ve been bad because Kane scored the Hawks’ only goal and he still came out of Game 2 a minus-2.

It wasn’t just them. The Hawks’ top four defensemen got burned on all four Detroit goals. One moment that seemed to sum up the defense’s struggles came near the end of the second period when the Hawks had a chance to get an icing call and an offensive zone faceoff. But Niklas Hjalmarsson was beaten to the puck, and the Hawks lost a scoring chance and a half-minute while down a goal.

Remember when the Blackhawks used to be faster, quicker, smarter, tougher and better than the Red Wings? Yeah, let’s toast last Wednesday.

Corey Crawford was the one Hawk who showed up with any consistency. Crawford stopped a short-handed breakaway, lasers from the slot, and went post to post. He was beaten on a deflection, a breakaway and two other odd-man rushes. Not much chance. Not much help from his teammates.

The ugly truth: The Hawks needed a goalie win in Game 2 because everybody else stunk. There has to be a better plan.

Wait a minute, I think the Blackhawks just gave up another odd-man rush.

So now, the inconsistent Hawks face some adversity.

The loss in Minnesota still left the Hawks with a series lead. Now, though, the home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs they fought for so brilliantly during the regular season is gone in this series. They could’ve gone through the postseason just winning in the United Center and things would’ve been fine. Now they have to win a game in Detroit.

It’s not that they can’t. They have won games at Joe Louis Arena --- nine of the last 11, as a matter of fact. They’ve done it with smart, skilled, fast play, none of which we saw in Game 2.

The Hawks still have more speed and better depth than the Wings, and the Wings know it. That’s why they roughed up and impeded the Hawks’ game. It was standard playoff hockey by the lesser team, but the Hawks complained about it afterward.

The answer is not to thug it up. Toews’ comment that the Hawks have to start giving it back to the Wings is thinking about the wrong thing. The Hawks’ game involves the willingness to make plays while absorbing abuse. At some point, the power play opportunities will go their way.

Failing that, loose pucks always seem to decide Hawks-Wings games because both teams have skilled players who know what to do with them. The Hawks have more of them.

The Hawks are facing adversity. How they respond in Detroit this week will frame their championship readiness. They can squawk and whine about the Wings’ physical play or they can, I don’t know, skate and score.

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