CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews sat on the bench in front of his dressing room stall late Sunday, slowly unraveling the clear tape wrapped around his socks that was holding up his shin pads. The look on his face was one of despair, of disgust. He put his elbows on his knees and dropped his face into his hands.
It was a sight so very different from what we've come to expect from Toews, who won everything last year, from Olympic gold to the Conn Smythe and, of course, the Stanley Cup.
Now he and his teammates are on the verge of being eliminated without a single victory in the 2011 playoffs.
Chicago lost on its home ice Sunday night, 3-2, to fall behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series against the Canucks. They can be finished off for good Tuesday in Game 4.
"We've only got ourselves to blame, ourselves to be disappointed in," Toews said, standing up with his equipment still on at this point. "Where we sit now, it's not pretty. It's really frustrating when you don't put it all on the line. You don't find a way to win that one."
Toews is worried that his team is buying into the fact that it doesn't belong here this season -- that it got it made the playoffs on a fluke despite losing in a must-win game on the final day of the regular season.
Chicago is clearly the public underdog in this one vs. eight series against the Presidents' Trophy winners, but Toews fears his teammates actually believe what everyone is saying about them and it is showing in their play.
"A lot of people are saying we're the underdog … in our opinion (they) aren't giving our team the credit and the respect we deserve, and it seems like we're OK with that," Toews said. "We're not proving anyone wrong, that we are a better team than everyone thinks we are. We're proving everyone right. Definitely not happy about that."
Toews was particularly distressed with how the Blackhawks played in the third period Sunday.
The game was tied at 2-2 after 40 minutes, but Vancouver forward Mikael Samuelsson scored the eventual winner 6:48 into the third on a backhanded swipe off a second rebound. He was alone in the high slot.
Chicago went 0-for-2 on the power play and managed only seven shots in the final 20 minutes.
"We've gotta have the best period of the series to pretty much stay alive in this thing, and we give up a soft goal like we did," Toews said. "It’s pretty frustrating to see."
Toews, of course, was not alone in his disgust.
"We talked about carrying the play and getting that first goal, which we did," Patrick Sharp said. "It's frustrating with how it turned out in the third period."
While Toews slowly undressed, eventually getting off his socks, his shin pads and finally his skates, the media was still in the dressing room, congregating around Brent Seabrook's empty stall, waiting for the hulking defenseman to stand in front of them and give his thoughts on the night.
Once Toews finally finished peeling off all his equipment he started helping a locker room attendant, tossing some empty cups into the nearby trash can. Finally, before Seabrook entered the room, Toews slowly and solemnly walked through the crowd and into the changing room that's off limits to the media.
There's still time left for the Hawks to make history, to become just the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 0-3 hole. But, if Toews takes another walk like the one he took Sunday, he won't be heading into the changing room -- he'll be heading into a long summer vacation.
"There's no one I particularly blame," Toews said. "It reflects on your team. It's pretty disappointing."
I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.
— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the OT winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round