DETROIT—On a balmy evening, in a steamy building, following a fiery game, the Blackhawks faced adversity for the first time all season. Not the fleeting kind that disappears with a quick flight home and a hug from loved ones, either. This was the stinging, clinging kind.
“But we will find a way,” assured captain Jonathan Toews after Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, who don’t look very tired anymore despite having gone the limit against Anaheim in their previous series.
On the contrary, the Red Wings have seized momentum in the Western Conference Semifinals, fragile though it might be. If the Blackhawks return to Joe Louis Arena Thursday night and expend as much effort as they did this night, maybe watch their tempers and perhaps even click on a power play, why, they could tie the tournament 2-2 and render it a best-of-three with two starts at the United Center.
They believe that. They have to believe that. They believe they might have run out of time in Game 3. They can’t begin to think they might be running out of games against an inspired foe during a postseason that already has spelled carnage for the West’s 2, 3 and 4 seeds.
“We’ll come back here in a couple nights and play even harder,” continued Toews, who is still without a goal in these Stanley Cup playoffs, but not without hope. Maybe next time, goalie Jimmy Howard won’t be seeing the puck as clearly as he saw it Monday night, when he registered 39 saves, as well as a couple friendly pings he heard behind him.
In the third period, down 2-0, the Blackhawks increased pressure and traffic. Howard stopped Patrick Sharp on a solo, but not Patrick Kane, who halved Detroit’s lead while Johan Franzen lay in a heap 180 feet away after a check by Niklas Hjalmarsson. Franzen returned, and so did the Blackhawks to Howard’s nest, but an apparent tying goal was waved off because Andrew Shaw was in the crease.
“Disagree,” huffed coach Joel Quenneville, when asked about the decision. He thought it might have cost his team the game. If that didn’t, Pavel Datsyuk did with a laser beam over and past Corey Crawford 6:46 into an active, chippy final session.
The Blackhawks were not as worthy during the second period, when the Red Wings won a faceoff in their zone and went thataway in a flash, Gustav Nyquist veering wide of a sprawled Brent Seabrook to beat Crawford. Just 31 seconds later, the Red Wings jabbed repeatedly around a puck and banked it, Drew Miller with the last touch on exactly the kind of gatherings around the blue paint that the Blackhawks required more of, despite resistance.
Again, these are not the Minnesota Wild that the Blackhawks brushed off a couple weeks ago. These are not the Red Wings whom the Blackhawks whipped four straight times during regular-season preambles, including 7-1 here on Easter Sunday. Red Wings things have changed, except for an exercise that you should not try at home.
The octopus throw! It is a callisthenic unique to Detroit, begun in 1952 when the owner of a local fish market, Pete Cusimano, tossed one of those slippery invertebrates onto the ice at the old Olympia. An octopus has eight legs—or more correctly, four pairs of arms—and back then, it took eight playoff victories to claim a Stanley Cup. Now, with four series instead of two, it takes 16 victories. There are no known octopi with 16 legs, or arms.
How this tradition continues is unclear, because security in and around Joe Louis Arena is properly snug. One can only imagine how man, or woman, and beast make it through to the seats.
Usher: “What’s in your backpack?”
Fan: “My cigarettes and an octopus.”
Usher: “You understand, of course, that there is no smoking in the building.”
An octopus is considered extremely intelligent and adept at problem solving, and gifted with long-term memory despite a short lifespan. Companionship appears to be a problem area. After mating, male and females expire within months.
Monday night, the Blackhawks opted for pizza, a favored account of Red Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch, then departed on their charter for home. They are not in a panic mode. They are halfway to being shocked into a sudden summer vacation.
“No negative thoughts,” insisted Toews, wistful about not seeing the back of the net lately. “I will not let this get the best of me.”