Stanley Cup playoffs: Blackhawks face adversity for first time

Gregory Shamus

After practically cruising through the regular season, Chicago now has to respond to some adversity. Can it?

According to Dictionary.com, "adversity" is defined -- among other things -- as "a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress."

Over the course of a long season and playoff, virtually every team will face some adversity. Even last year's Los Angeles Kings, who basically blew everyone away during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, faced adversity as they struggled to even get in the tournament. Just ask Terry Murray, who started last season as the head coach.

Adversity can come with injuries to key players that send the team into a brief tailspin. Maybe a slump leads to a coaching change. There are a lot of ways a team could be forced to battle back from adversity.

Though the Chicago Blackhawks had to shake off a couple injuries, it could be argued they never really faced any adversity during a 36-7-5 regular season that saw them not lose a game in regulation until they reached the halfway mark of the season.

The fact Chicago is down 2-1 to rival Detroit in the conference semifinals doesn't by itself constitute adversity. Instead, what should worry Blackhawks fans is the way the Red Wings have won the last two games.

Saturday, the Wings didn't need goalie Jimmy Howard to steal a game in Chicago. Detroit outplayed, outhustled, outshot, and outhit the Blackhawks in their own building.

Monday, Howard was better, but other facets of the 3-1 Detroit win should be more disturbing for those who support Chicago.

For starters, the Wings are clearly in the heads of the Western Conference's top seed. Frustration mounted late in the game, and it didn't appear Chicago's half-hearted attempt at message-sending was terribly successful. It led to Detroit power plays, including one in the final six minutes that hampered the Blackhawks' comeback efforts. The play of the Blackhawks was uncharacteristically and unnecessarily undisciplined.

Making matters worse, an apparent Chicago goal in the third period that would have tied the score 2-2 was disallowed on an allegation of goalie interference.

Whether you like the call or not (I vehemently disagree with it, but it's not a topic we need to argue about now), what is indisputable is that Chicago didn't respond well to this in-game adversity.

As much of a Jonathan Toews fan as I am, the team is following his lead lately, and not in a good way. Toews has been preoccupied with the officials over the last couple games, and it's affected his play. Despite not scoring a goal over the first six Blackhawks postseason games, he was playing well. So was everyone else.

The last two games, Toews has been chirping the stripes, and his team has followed suit.

Look at this quote from before Game 3.

"It’s just tough to understand sometimes why we get roughing penalties and hooking penalties, whatever it is, and it doesn’t go both ways. If that’s the way it’s going to be, well, we need to understand that and play more physical and be tougher on them."

This storyline isn't going away. It's only going to intensify.

Working the officials is part of the playoffs. But Toews should know better than to partake in said working. It's Joel Quenneville's job to try to subtly influence the officials and get more calls for his team. Perhaps Quenneville will try something after two straight games of his captain getting irritated at the guys in the orange armbands. Last round, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo chirped the officials over faceoffs, and while it seemed to work, it didn't adversely affect the clearly-superior Blackhawks.

The Wings have gotten some calls, yes, but so have the Blackhawks. The difference here is that one team has shaken off some calls that went the way of the opponent. Now, Chicago has to show that same kind of resolve, or the Wings will pull another upset and get to the conference final.

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