Simple for Hawks: Finish or be finished

The Blackhawks played the NHL-wide-despised Canucksabout even in the first period of their first game back from an All-Star Game as useful as John Scott.

After that, the Hawks dominated play. Shots, chances, puck possession --- you name, it, the Hawks owned it.

But they couldn’t finish.

And then they lost.

The Hawks couldn’t kill the NHL-wide-despised Canucks, even with a power play in the dying minutes of regulation.

And then Daniel Sedin popped home the winner in overtime after his family had done nothing all game.

The Hawks couldn’t finish. Not a good start to a nine-game road trip, eh?

The Hawks will hang the loss on both a bad non-call late --- shut up and score on the power play before that, why don’t you? --- and a better goalie. They have a case on the latter.

Not to diminish the performance of Hawks netminder Corey Crawford, who stopped one Sedin point-blank before the brother beat him, but Cory Schenider was unbelievable in the second period to keep it a game.

Most spectacularly, Schneider absolutely robbed new Hawk Brendan Morrison, sticking up his arm to make a miraculous save while scrambling desperately to get back to the crease, and I’m thinking, man, could the Hawks have used a game against Roberto Luongo.

In dominating the second period, the Hawks worked their transition game brilliantly and looked sharp with stretch passes that left the Canucks flailing. Overall, the Hawks played fast and disciplined, absorbing a disproportionate number of hits to make plays.

But when your fourth line gets half your goals, you have issues. Viktor Stalberg and Jamal Mayers scored, but everybody else got beat, and everybody means all of the Hawks’ somebodies --- Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp.

Some people will want to use the excuse of Toews and Sharp returning from injury. Both had great chances to win it in regulation, and I figure if they’re good enough to get that close – point-blank in Toews’ case --- then they ought to be good enough to finish.

Oh, and did I miss the memo prohibiting Kane from scoring more than a goal a week?

It’s troubling that the Hawks didn’t finish because the next step is wondering about a killer instinct. Not to make too much out of one game, but it was a game against one of the best teams in the conference and a potential playoff opponent again. You have to beat good teams. The Hawks, though, are getting beaten by teams above them.

It’s more troubling that it comes at the start of what might be a season-killing, nine-game road trip while trying to survive the asphyxiating Western Conference. The loss, combined with Nashville’s inexplicable four-goal third period against Minnesota, left the Hawks in sixth place, four points behind conference-leading Detroit and nine points ahead of ninth-place Colorado. A playoff spot looks likely. So does a tough first-round opponent without home-ice when you’re only fourth in your own division.

Look, this is a team that pays for finishers. This is a team that has some of the best finishers in the league. Compliment the other goalie all you want, but your best finishers have to finish. Red lights, not red faces, OK?

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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