PHILADELPHIA -- Nothing is lost. Nothing is over. But nothing is going to come easy.
If the Blackhawks and their fans didn’t realize it before, they sure do after a 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are in the finals for a reason and they are showing the Hawks what they’re about.
They have heart, character and leadership -- just like the Hawks do. And they have a forecheck the Hawks have not seen. It’s not just the pressure they put on the defensemen, like Niklas Hjalmarsson in Game 4, it’s what the Flyers do with the puck once they get it. They have that lethal combination of getting the puck and then capitalizing.
It’s a good sign the Hawks waged a comeback. They proved to themselves and the Flyers that just as Philadelphia didn’t give in down two games to none, neither would the Hawks down 4-1 in Game 4. It gives Game 5 an “anybody’s game” kind of feeling. Of course, that’s not what it felt like in the opening 20 minutes.
Surely it’s upsetting for coaches and fans to see the Hawks make some of the same mistakes they made going back to Game 1. By now, they should know who’s coming at them when they have the puck in their own zone: an attacking team.
Joel Quenneville is coming under scrutiny for the first time in the playoffs. His expertise is defense and teaching defensemen the right way to play the game. He needs to come up with an answer so mistakes like Hjalmarssons’ on Friday don’t continue. Quenneville has stressed how important it is to have good shifts after scoring goals, but the Hawks have come up short in that area in both losses here in Philadelphia. A closer focus on who is on the ice after a goal is scored might be needed.
Taking Adam Burish out of the lineup is a different story. After a while numbers do not lie, even for a fourth line player getting very limited minutes. The Hawks are 13-2 in the playoffs with Burish in the lineup while just 1-4, without him. That is telling and it has nothing to do with his contribution on the ice. And remember, that second loss came Wednesday night in overtime. Not exactly a blow out.
Maybe Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, and Tomas Kopecy are all more talented players, but none of them can fill the role that Burish does. In fact, Brouwer ended up playing about as much as Burish usually does. So if there is an intangible Burish brings, it’s not being made up for by on ice production when he’s out of the lineup.
Nothing is lost but nothing will be easy.