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SportsMondayTuesday: Hawks Not Hungry Enough

It could be worse.

But for a highly unusual two-goal rally in the third period of Game 1, the Hawks could be trailing the Bruins 3-0. Instead they are down 2-1 after losing their fourth straight Game 3 (!) in these playoffs.

Through three games, the Bruins are simply better.

What happens the vast majority of times this Bruins team gets a lead was on display last night. The Hawks generated some scoring chances in the third period (how did Bryan Bickell's shot in the last minute not go off the post and in?) but not nearly enough. And Tuukka Rask and the best defensive corps in hockey put the finishing touches on a 2-0 victory, Rask's third shutout of the playoffs.

"The Bruins are playing better defense than the 2003-04 Patriots," Dan Shaughnessy writes in the Boston Globe.

"The Penguins know this migraine," Kevin Paul Dupont writes for the Globe.

"So do the Rangers. The Bruins moved one giant step closer to a Stanley Cup championship Monday night on Causeway Street, once more blending their painful, punishing cocktail of stifling defense and air-tight Tuukka Rask goaltending (28 saves) for a 2-0 win over the Blackhawks.

"What a pain it must be to play the Bruins right now. They allowed the Penguins only two goals in four games in the Eastern Conference finals. They shut down everything and everyone Pittsburgh had to offer. Sidney Crosby disappeared. Evgeni Malkin never came out of the fog. Ditto for Kris Letang and everyone else in the Penguins lineup.

"And now it's happening to the Blackhawks."

But for a Blackhawk blitz in the first period of Game 2, you could make an argument that the Hawks have barely been better for an entire period (regulation or overtime) during this series, let alone a full game.

The worst news of all? It had to be on the injury front. The Hawks were going to have a tough time winning this series regardless, but winning it without surprise scratch Marian Hossa? Highly unlikely.

Hossa was the best Hawk in Game 1 and in so many tight games against good teams since the Cup-winning campaign, he has been the difference-maker for his team.

Now he's a man of mystery. The Hawks themselves said at first that Hossa was hurt in warm-ups.

But after the game, the story changed.

"Quenneville said the injury didn't occur in warm-ups," Fox Sports reports, "and captain Jonathan Toews said it 'was something that we were prepared for all day,' even though Hossa skated with the team earlier Monday and there hadn't been indication, at least publicly, he was hurt."

Which begs the question: If the team knew Hossa was questionable, why didn't his replacement, Ben Smith, get any ice time in warm-ups?

The team did acknowledge that Hossa suffered an "upper body injury," but A) I think the team would be more than willing to lie about that if it believed it provided Hossa a little more protection and B) "upper body injury" covers so much stuff, a team ought to just go ahead and say "he's injured somewhere."

And that left the Hawks hurting.

"Marian Hossa's absence from the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup for Game 3 wasn't being used as a defense for their 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday night," Greg Wyshynski writes for Yahoo! Sports.

"But the fact is that Hossa is tied for the team lead in points, and the Chicago offense was punchless - especially on the power play, where Hossa ranks fourth in average ice time.

"His loss was significant; the timing of that loss made things downright chaotic."

In the end, the team described Hossa's ability to play going forward as "day-to-day." Aren't all of us, though?

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are holding Hossa's condition more closely than the NSA guards its secrets.

No question, the Hawks need Hossa - especially with Toews not appearing to be playing at anything close to full strength. He clearly doesn't have the jump he did in the first three-quarters of the regular season.

He has persevered, of course, and done his usual amazing job of back-checking and everything else the ultimate defensive forward can do, but he isn't creating offense for himself or his teammates. He took a few big hits late in the regular season and, of course, has been a target in the playoffs - particularly of Bruin bad boy Brad Marchand in this series - and just can't seem to elevate his game. Maybe he's suffering an upper-body injury, too.

And while Toews is getting his lunch handed to him by Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Kane has disappeared again.

That's why nothing else will matter much if Hossa can't return and give this team a spark.

"The Hawks went 0-for-5 on the power play and have failed on all 11 opportunities with a man advantage in the series," Chris Kuc reports for the Tribune.

"Also not helping matters was a dreadful night in the faceoff circle as the Hawks lost 40 of 56 draws - including 6 of 7 on the power play.

"It's about us," Toews said. "We've just got to be hungrier for the puck sometimes. And on the power play, we can help each other out more, keep more plays alive and not let them break out of their zone so easily."

It's the Stanley Cup Finals, boys. You should be hungry enough. Boston certainly is.


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

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021