If the rosters of past Stanley Cup champions hand-painted on concrete walls inside Joe Louis Arena didn't reiterate to the Blackhawks that they face a Red Wings tradition, not just a team, defenseman Brent Seabrook unwittingly offered a reminder.
"Detroit doesn't surprise anyone in here," Seabrook said late Monday night after the Hawks' 3-1 loss. "They know how to win."
Not every NHL playoff team does. Chicago wishes the Hawks would remember. Soon.
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General manager Stan Bowman's Blackhawks could use some of that championship gravitas his dad, Scotty Bowman, instilled into the Red Wings during his era of excellence. Oh, the Hawks have it. They just lost it somewhere near Romulus, Mich.
The most surprising aspect of this series has been the striking contrast in demeanors of both teams under pressure. The seventh-seeded Wings responded to their Game 1 loss with the confidence and poise of a group used to operating in a winning environment under coach Mike Babcock while the Hawks have behaved lately like a team experiencing its first postseason. That's on coach Joel Quenneville. The Hawks followed a lack of intensity in Game 2 with an embarrassing loss of composure in the third period of Game 3; neither trait one would expect from the supposed best team in hockey.
The Hawks better start acting like it again before it's golf season and stop complaining about referees or committing dumb penalties undisciplined teams commit. They have until Thursday night back at The Joe to get in the proper frame of mind before their biggest playoff game since Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.
For the Hawks to panic now would be as irrational as Andrew Shaw hopping over the boards to look for trouble like an over-served frat boy at a bar. The best-of-seven format allows teams to recover from letdowns. But if the Hawks lose Game 4, it seems hard to fathom they could regroup in time to win three straight against a peaking Red Wings team. And if a team talented enough to win the Presidents' Trophy gets eliminated in the second round by a seventh seed, the Blackhawks' season will go down as a colossal disappointment and changes will loom. If the walls of the Hawks dressing room could talk, they would say: "It's time."
Optimists spent Tuesday pointing out that the Hawks recovered from a 2-1 series deficit against the Predators in the 2010 playoffs and won the Cup. That memory comforts Hawks fans more than last year's example when the Hawks fell behind the Coyotes 2-1 and ultimately succumbed in six games. Thursday's game will help determine what history this Hawks team repeats.
Everybody can agree they picked a bad time to put together their worst eight-game stretch this season. If the struggles continue, it will revive the question whether a fast, skilled, finesse team like the Hawks built for regular-season consistency can achieve success during the playoffs that reward physicality. The Hawks need to find more ways to score dirty goals offensively and punish defensively. They can't get away with being one-dimensional in the postseason. They need to re-energize a power play without juice.
Defensive lapses have created a margin of error too thin for goalie Corey Crawford to overcome. Crawford has yet to ascend to the level of the Red Wings' Jimmy Howard, who has dominated. But Crawford is neither at the top of any list of Hawks' problems nor a realistic candidate to be replaced by Ray Emery, who hasn't stopped a puck in nearly a month (April 24). Once the defense in front of Crawford improves, watch how quickly he does. The Hawks simply haven't been themselves on either end.
Their sudden identity crisis coincides with the face of the franchise becoming hardly recognizable — and it has nothing to do with Jonathan Toews' playoff beard. Toews turned in an otherwise fine all-around effort Monday night but, for the eighth straight playoff game, failed to score a goal. It hasn't been for lack of trying; Toews took seven shots. Like everything else in the series, Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg made Toews earn those looks.
To give Toews some relief from Zetterberg, perhaps Quenneville should consider double-shifting his captain to take advantage of another matchup. Try something, anything to let Toews play his way out of a scoring slump. Toews prides himself in doing whatever his team needs. More than anything facing the Hawks' first real adversity all year, his team needs goals.
Now would be a good time for everybody wearing an Indianhead to jog their memories.