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Sports

Before you bail, Hawks fans, ask yourselves this

For second-wave Blackhawks fans, you've finally got a real reason to hate Detroit. Since Chicago's 2009 playoff elimination at the hands of the Wings, the historically testy rivalry hasn't featured the same acrimony as Vancouver. Or St. Louis. Or even Phoenix. The Hawks have dominated, going 15-4-3 against Detroit since the '09 ouster.

And then the Blackhawks lost two games in a row and you've already tossed your Hossa shirtsey into the hamper. For shame.

How soon we forget 2010. Remember that scrappy 7-seed Nashville Predators team that seemed to be "coming together at the right time" and had "hot goalie" Pekka Rinne? They smoked Chicago 4-1 in Games 1 and 3, taking a 2-1 series lead and freaking out the more-freakoutable hockey fans and media. (On April 21, 2010, this very newspaper ran the headline "Smashed in Nashville," with quotes like "officially jangled the last nerve of Hawks faithful everywhere" and "the suddenly-wobbly Hawks assured of another 48 hours of teeth-gnashing over the possible seismic upset at hand." That was US!)

Feel familiar? Fact is, the road is almost never smooth for a Stanley Cup-winning team. Since 1988, only the 2008 Red Wings and last year's L.A. Kings hoisted the Cup without trailing in a postseason series. That's going back to when Wayne Gretzky was winning Hart Trophies in Edmonton, and also the year Paulina Gretzky was born. (Whoa.) Falling behind in a series should be expected by a Cup-winning team.

If the Blackhawks had played Game 3 like they played Game 2, there'd be more evidence to worry. But if you're still ready to jump ship, ask yourself these questions:

>> Do you think Jimmy Howard will stop 39 of 40 shots again? The same Jimmy Howard who allowed eight goals on exactly 100 shots against Chicago this regular season?

>> Do you think Andrew Shaw will get another perfectly legal goal taken away from him?

>> Do you think Jonathan Toews will hit the crossbar on a wide-open 8-footer again?

>> Do you think Michal Roszival will even play in Game 4?

>> Why am I on this ship?

If Game 3 were replayed with the same chances, same intensity and same players four times, the Blackhawks would win three of them. And that's all they need to do now, in this series. Save the "season in danger!" talk for actual elimination games.

Alex Quigley is a RedEye special contributor.

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