I expected the Hawks to come out strong and outskate the Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night, no matter the Kings’ 7-0 record at the Staples Center this postseason.
The Hawks indeed had a chance in the first minute, but after that, the Kings dictated everything. They were more physical and aggressive, as they have shown themselves to be at home. They created more scoring chances in the first period alone than they seemed to all last weekend.
The jump the Hawks showed in Games 1 and 2 was missing, as were their passes, as were their breakout plays, as was their defensive coverage.
Maybe the Hawks were worried about the pounding the Kings wanted to deliver, but this was some of the Hawks’ worst puck management in a while. If that was the way the Hawks intended to handle the puck and take faceoffs, then we could’ve gone to Game 4 immediately.
And then the Hawks looked worse in the second period, managing one shot in almost 17 minutes.
What’s more, Duncan Keith lost his composure the way Patrick Sharp did in the first period.
Keith whacked Kings center Jeff Carter in the face with his stick, a silly retaliation move that resulted in a double minor. In the first period, Sharp pulled a Jonathan Toews, losing his poise and picking up several penalties, even dropping his gloves.
Nice leadership by the alternate captains.
Nice disappearing act by Patrick Kane, too.
I don’t know if the Kings have taken Kane out of this series or if Kane has taken himself out because of his reluctance to get involved in the physical play, but one of the most important Hawks scorers has been absent. Frankly, he has looked scared a lot of times.
Oh, there is an 88 out there. Maybe that’s a hologram. The Hawks needed the real Kane, and he wasn’t close to being dangerous. Hasn’t been. Two goals in 15 playoff games ties Kane with defenseman Johnny Oduya. Two playoff goals works out to $3 million per score.
“You have to find a way to get the puck,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said, “and find a way to want it.’’
Kane isn’t the Lone Ranger here. Tonto Toews, while not as invisible, still has only one goal in 15 playoff games. The captain has fewer goals than checkers Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik. Not combined. Fewer goals than each. Jeez, Michael Handzus has more goals than Toews, and Handzus is 87 years old.
Toews, Kane and the rest of them ceded play to the Kings. The Hawks developed no flow. They couldn’t complete two passes. They never forced their transition game because they couldn’t get off the boards with the puck. Whether they lacked legs or heart, that’s where they left the puck and the game. They committed a ridiculous 15 turnovers. I’m not sure how many of those were borne of physical fear, but there were some. There were enough.
With that many giveaways, obviously, it’s not just one thing. The Hawks covered the bingo card with awful, starting with lazy skating because too many forwards waited for the home-run pass and created big gaps between the forwards and defense that kill the concept of five-man units coming out of their zone and through center ice.
The rest of the mess included weak, inaccurate passes, sloppy and scared stickhandling, awful positioning, soft play along the boards, slow forechecking, and mind-numbingly bad shot choices. When they shot at all, that is.
If there was a question about Kings goalie Jonathan Quick’s ability to rebound after getting yanked in Game 2, the Hawks weren’t making it much of an issue.
But remarkably, even after giving up another goal, the Hawks had a chance after Bryan Bickell scored late in the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Bickell almost tied the game in the third period, forcing Quick to make his best save of the game, sticking up the inside of his blocker pad point-blank.
Ultimately, the Hawks got what they deserved. Someone tell the Hawks they can’t win a playoff game when they give away almost two entire periods.