In the Wake of the News
12:31 AM CDT, June 18, 2013
BOSTON — Secrecy surrounded the odd circumstances of Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa missing Monday night's 2-0 loss to the Bruins with an upper-body injury.
But a bigger mystery more relevant in Chicago had little to do with Hossa.
Who hid the Hawks' offense?
They have gone 122 minutes, 26 seconds since their last goal. And counting.
Back in Beantown for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was harder to penetrate than Bill Belichick's personality.
"We made it rather easy on him in terms of traffic and seeing pucks,'' coach Joel Quenneville said.
The easier Rask made it look, the harder it became to envision the Hawks beating a Bruins team that has outplayed them for most of three games. To understand how the Hawks now see a series they trail 2-1, you would have to understand how the ant views the shoe. They came to town in search of their scoring touch. They're still looking.
"We're not panicked. We're not worried,'' Jonathan Toews said. "We've been in worse moments.''
Not against a team this hungry and a goalie this hot. On a night the Hawks missed Hossa, what they lacked from Toews and Patrick Kane stood out as much. Both stars have yet to score against the Bruins.
"Sometimes that happens,'' Toews said. "The goaltender has a lot of confidence, and they're playing well around him.''
Toews and Kane can do the little things Quenneville always mentions, but these moments call for big expectations met only when that little black rubber thing makes the lamp go red.
Their misery has company. Bryan Bickell, who began the series as a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate, has come down with chronic inconsistency again. Bickell wrote in a pregame blog for NHL.com that he switched from his good-luck sushi dinner the night before games to chicken Sunday night. Just sayin', Bicks, you might want to try the cod and baked beans Tuesday.
Speaking of things hard to swallow, Quenneville and several Hawks players intimated that they sensed during the day Hossa might not play. But if they did, why didn't the Hawks have surprise replacement Ben Smith warm up to have him ready? Smith had lunch with his mom, who made the 110-mile drive from Smith's hometown of Avon, Conn. Why would a hockey mom go back home if her son thought he might play in a Cup Final game? What occurred before the game to Hossa and how long will it affect Game 4?
As far as starts go, losing Hossa for whatever reason fell between bad and are-you-kidding-me? The freakish injury served as a bad omen for what turned into a terrible night of hockey.
"Nothing happened during warm-up,'' Quenneville said.
Immediately after, Smith's heart started racing.
When Smith walks onto the Boston College campus in Chestnut Hill about 10 miles away, you might say everybody knows his name. Smith made his mark in a city that reveres hockey by helping the Eagles win two NCAA championships. He estimated Game 3 was his 15th game on the Bruins' home ice.
Yet even with all of Smith's experience in the arena, nobody could blame the guy who hadn't played in 51 days since the regular-season finale for considering the environment as frightening as it was familiar.
"I just tried to keep it simple,'' said Smith, who relied on the memory of his three playoff goals against the Canucks in 2011.
For the most part, Smith did that in 10 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time. Would Hossa have closed the gap quicker than Smith did on Daniel Paille in the right circle at the 2:13 mark of the second period? Perhaps, but Paille didn't beat Corey Crawford for the Bruins' first goal because Smith was too slow. Paille scored because he lifted Dave Bolland's stick just enough to get to the puck and set up the shot.
The Hawks missed Hossa's value more than they noticed Smith's inexperience. No team is that deep.
In fairness, as dominant as the Bruins looked, not even a healthy Hossa might have made a difference. The raucous crowd of 17,565 chanted, "We want the Cup.'' The Bruins skated like they wanted it more. The Big Dig here Monday was what the Bruins did to find an intensity the Hawks couldn't match.
They lost faceoffs and their composure, especially Bolland, who had three penalties. Too often during the dreaded power play, the Hawks were tentative instead of tenacious. The short-handed Bruins often posed more of a threat to score than the Hawks did with a man advantage. The Hawks now have nothing to show for 11 power plays in this series.
Except frustration, which keeps mounting.
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