MUSICK: Angry Hawks determined to bounce back
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Patrick Kane turned and shot, turned and shot, turned and shot.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
No puck was anywhere in sight. The surface was drab carpet instead of slick ice. No fans filled seats, no referees carried whistles and no pop-music soundtrack filled the pauses in between.
Minutes earlier, the Blackhawks had lost, 3-2, in overtime to the Minnesota Wild. The loss trimmed the Hawks’ series lead to 2-1 in the Western Conference quarterfinals with Game 4 set for Tuesday.
“They played like they had to win,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “And we didn’t.”
Perhaps that’s why Kane looked so angry.
The Hawks’ superstar winger stood in an interior hallway in the basement of the Xcel Energy Center and repeatedly heaved a medicine ball against the wall. The weighted ball smacked the cinderblock and ricocheted back to Kane, who caught it, twisted at the torso, and prepared his next booming shot.
Perhaps Kane would have taken part in the same routine after a win, but I doubt it.
On Sunday against the Wild, the Hawks had a great opportunity to seize a commanding 3-0 series lead, which has led to a series win 12 times out of 12 in franchise history. Instead, the heavily favored Hawks need to win Game 4 against a feisty team in front of a frenzied crowd to avoid a deadlock.
The sudden tightness of the series might surprise some of us, but not the Hawks.
Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith reminded reporters about how Game 1 went to overtime, too. Although the Hawks won that game as well as Game 2, Keith said, no one counted on a sweep.
Remarkably, nine of the Hawks’ past 11 playoff games have gone to overtime.
“I think it’s been a series all along,” said Keith, whose goal with 2:46 remaining in the third period tied the score and briefly deflated the Wild’s raucous home crowd. “From the guys in this room, it’s never been a [consideration] about thinking it’s going to be easy.”
It made sense, then, for Kane to follow a 21/2-hour game with an intense workout.
Several of Kane’s teammates joined him for an impromptu gym session in the hallway.
Brandon Bollig pedaled a stationary bicycle at such a high speed that I thought it might tip over. Michael Frolik twisted and stretched in ways that would have snapped my hamstring. Other players worked out, too, while a few stayed behind in the locker room to speak with reporters.
That group included Jonathan Toews, who served as team spokesman in addition to team captain.
“That intensity just wasn’t there enough tonight,” Toews said.
“It’s a good question,” Toews said. “We can’t be satisfied with that effort. We had great goaltending. ‘Crow’ kept us in that game all game. Without him we probably wouldn’t have stood a chance.
“It’s up to us to respond and ask ourselves that question. And be much better [in] the next one.”
“Crow” is Corey Crawford, who enjoyed another good game despite allowing a sharp-angle goal to Wild forward Jason Zucker at the 2:15 mark of overtime. Crawford stopped 34 of 37 shots, including a few from point-blank range, to keep the Hawks afloat despite a lackluster effort.
Every series includes bumps, and the Hawks have hit one.
It’s more of a routine wake-up call than a panic alarm.
During the magical Stanley Cup season of 2010, the Hawks lost their first road game in the playoffs against the Nashville Predators before regrouping. By the end of the postseason, the Hawks had posted a remarkable 8-3 playoff record on the road, including the Cup-clinching win in Philadelphia.
This season could end in similar fashion.
But before looking ahead, the Hawks must prove that they are better than the Wild.
“We never thought it was going to be easy at any point,” said Crawford, now the Hawks’ unquestioned No. 1 starter in net. “We shouldn’t think it was going to be easy.”
So Kane and others kept working, in silence, eyes focused ahead.
Come Game 4, their hard work in the hallway could carry over to the ice.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.