Quick thoughts after Blackhawks’ Game 4 loss

130107_gq_trout_aThis has to be the lowest point of the entire season for the Blackhawks. After going up 2-0 on Minnesota in this second round series, the Hawks dropped both games 3 and 4 in St. Paul and looked absolutely horrible in doing so. If you really sit back and think about it, the Blackhawks didn’t even look good in either of the first two games of the series in Chicago. The Wild outplayed the Hawks in both games, but couldn’t find the back of the net often enough to win. Most people thought the Hawks would win this series (I thought in 5 games), but now it looks like this could be a potential upset.

Here’s what’s on my mind following these last two losses:

  • Where is the energy from the Hawks? This entire series, the Blackhawks have looked less than interested in playing hockey, while the Wild are out there busting their butts doing whatever they can to win each night. If you think back to last year’s first round series with the Wild, the Hawks looked very lethargic there as well. The only difference this time around is that the Wild are a much better team than they were a year ago, and the Blackhawks can’t get away with putting in half their effort each game.
  • What in the world is going on with Quenneville and his line combinations? After losing Game 3, he decided to drastically switch up the lines for Game 4 (Bickell-Toews-Smith, Saad-Kruger-Kane, Sharp-Handzus-Hossa, Morin-Nordstrom-Bollig). Those lines lasted almost 7 minutes in Game 4 before Quenneville decided it was time to switch up the line combos every 5 minutes. He literally did not give any line except the second line a chance to develop chemistry or to be successful. How are these players supposed to feel comfortable out on the ice in hostile territory when they are hopping over the boards with two new linemates every shift? It makes no sense to me. It would appear that Quenneville hit the panic button early in Game 4 and never took his finger back off of it.
  • Speaking of line combinations, I would give anything in the world to find out why Brandon Bollig is STILL in the lineup, let alone professional hockey. What good has TampaBayLightning_LOGOthis guy done at any point this season? He is god awful offensively, he is a reliability on defense, and he has seen less than five minutes of ice time per game this postseason. Why the hell even play a guy who won’t be on the ice for more than four and a half minutes per game? Then when he IS on the ice, he goes and takes absolutely HORRIBLE penalties like he did in Game 4 when he illegally checked Keith Ballard into the glass from behind, thus putting the Hawks on the penalty kill (Bollig had a hearing with the NHL today regarding that hit. I would gladly accept a 15-game suspension for him just to force Quenneville to take him out of the lineup). When you have guys like Peter Regin, Jeremy Morin, and/or Kris Versteeg being scratched each night while Brandon Bollig plays less than five worthless minutes of hockey, one can only wonder what is going through the mind of Joel Quenneville. Think about it. With a healthy lineup, doesn’t a fourth line of Morin-Regin/Handzus-Versteeg sound A LOT better than Versteeg/Morin-Handzus-Bollig? And the Corsi numbers (via extraskater.com) back this up.
  • The Blackhawks top players (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp) need to step up and start carrying this team again. Sharp scored in Game 4, and Hossa really hasn’t been bad this whole postseason, but Kane and Toews especially need to get going again. Game 4 was arguably Toews’ worst playoff performance of his career (granted he had new linemates every other shift), and he needs to pick it up starting with Game 5.
  • Corey Crawford had been outstanding this postseason until Game 4 the other night when he allowed at least two horrible goals in the second period. He can’t let his Game 4 performance affect his confidence moving forward.
  • Michal Rozsival was putrid in Game 4 against the Wild, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sheldon Brookbank return to the lineup in Rozsival’s spot for Game 5. Brookbank has played four games this postseason, and he really hasn’t been bad in any of them.

I could continue to go on and on, but those are the major things I wanted to mention. The bottom line is that the Blackhawks need to find their energy again and their desire to win, or else the Wild will no doubt pull off the upset here. This is now a best of three series with the Hawks holding home ice advantage, and while they haven’t played well this entire series, I still think they’ll advance to the next round.

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