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SportsMonday: What, Hawks Worry?

When the Bulls bowed out of the playoffs last week, I wasn't as upset as I would have been 10 years ago and definitely wasn't as upset as I would have been 20 years ago (I turned 49 a week-and-a-half ago).

And when the Hawks on Sunday dropped one of those special games, most common in hockey and soccer, that features one team outplaying the other but ending up on the wrong side of the scoreboard anyway, it was irritating but far from infuriating.

I find that, these days, I get over losses considerably faster than I used to. I'm not happy as games go south, that's for sure, but I save my best vitriol for times when I think my team is getting screwed. In the first game of Bull-Cavs, it seemed as though at least one deer-in-the-headlights ref was playing the "give the star (LeBron) the calls" game. But we didn't see him the rest of the series. And my take on the overall officiating from then on was that it was solid.

There was the controversy in Game 5, when Taj Gibson clearly should not have been kicked out of the game. But that was quickly forgotten in the aftermath of Game 6, when the Bulls laid down in shameful fashion. The team that fought through the first five games of that series deserved any success it could achieve. But the one that simply gave up in Game 6, well, the NBA playoffs are the better for that team being gone.

As for the Hawks, Sunday's game was a setback, but as plenty of others have pointed out, it was actually more promising than anything else. If it turns out it was the Ducks who had a letdown and they find a way to play much better hockey in the next few games, then it will be curtains for the locals.

But it seems far more likely that what we saw is what we will get in the coming games - we saw a Hawks team with more overall speed than the Ducks simply dominate possession of the puck for long stretches. The visitors obviously struggled to translate that advantage into goals, but that feels like a matter of probability, i.e., if a team can continue to dominate in that sort of way, soon enough it will get the breaks that will turn the score around.

Then again, there are some problems, especially in the back end. The most worrisome Hawks shortcoming going into the series - a lack of depth on defense - reared its ugly head not just on the first goal but on the second as well. Inexperienced defenseman David Rundblad was on the ice for both scores and in both instances failed to make plays that would have stopped the scoring chance even before it materialized or simply stopped it.

Rundblad is one guy who absolutely can be forgiven for rusty play. He hadn't hit the ice for game action in this postseason or any other, for that matter. He had to be fighting some combination of the ill effects of that as well as the nerves that come with that sort of a debut.

Others had opined that the Hawks as a team would suffer for having sat out for about 10 games between the end of the previous series and the opening of this one. Those folks generally failed to take note of the fact that the Ducks were coming off a long layoff as well, having wrapped up their previous playoff series all of two days after the Hawks.

In the end, it sucked that the Hawks lost but it's hard for me to be too ticked off about it. Part of that was where I'm at in terms of my sports fandom but I think the bigger part is confidence the Hawks have the better team.

Now if Crawford gives up a softy to give the Ducks the lead at some point in Game 2 on Tuesday evening, I'll be raging at my television just like anyone else. But unless the Hawks get hosed by the refs, I'll probably settle back down reasonably quickly. And I'll always have it in the back of my head that the Hawks have rallied from a two-game deficit before, most notably in the conference semifinals in 2013, when they came back from a three games-to-one deficit to defeat the Red Wings.

Bring on Game 2!


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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