There's one main question coming out of the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 on Tuesday. Did the Hawks' second half of their game, specifically the third period, have meaning or were the Kings just protecting a lead?
The answer to that is the answer to whether Los Angeles is truly back in the series. It wasn't unlike the Kings' third period in Chicago during Game 2 -- they eventually scored a power play goal but that only brought them to within two. A case can be made the Hawks were simply playing out the clock up 4-1, but is that the same thing the Kings were doing in Game 3?
I don't think so. I judge a lot on scoring chances. The Hawks continued to get theirs. Of course, so did the Kings. Many more came early in the game but it evened out as the game went along. And the Hawks had the majority in the third period. But again, was that just false hope heading into Game 4 or did it have meaning?
"The last 10 minutes was basically the way we should have started, have that intensity," coach Joel Quenneville said.
True. But the Kings had something to do with that. They were at home and in a desperate mood. Maybe the surprise would have been if they hadn't come out with a little enthusiasm.
"They played with more energy," Jonathan Toews said. "They were excited to be home. They're confident in this building and they showed that (Tuesday)."
Of course, shots on goal don't tell the whole story. Certainly the Hawks want more than 20 for a game and more than three in a period (second). But not every scoring chance results in a shot on goal. Viktor Stalberg found Brandon Saad in front of a wide open net in the third but he couldn't corral the puck. No shot. Duncan Keith had a mini-break away that was blown dead by an off-sides call. There were numerous other "chances" that looked to materialize only to die at the last second. Every game has them but the Hawks had more than usual.
A Hawks optimist would look at Game 3 and say "Yeah, kind of saw that coming." The Kings are no pushover and they were 7-0 at home in the postseason and they had a nice start behind their fans.
The Kings scored the first goal and rode that to a win. The Hawks were a step slow early on but eventually they caught up. I thought there was a chance the Kings might still be physically and mentally gassed compared to the Hawks and a sweep could happen. But they mustered just enough to win. They had their burst and now maybe we're back to the better team emerging.
That's what an optimist would say. We can imagine what a pessimist would opine: The sky is falling.
Nope. Not yet.
"We didn't deserve whatever came out of those first two periods," Bryan Bickell said. "They had the spark being at home. They have been a good home team this year in the playoffs. We just need to match it coming into the game but unfortunately we didn't. But we need to be ready for Game 4."
The Hawks learned -- rather quickly -- the level needed on the road in this series. Odds are they'll find it earlier in Game 4 than they did in Game 3. That should make the difference in the outcome.