As Brent Seabrook
was saying, he really never saw exactly what happened. Others did, however, and they strongly implied that the referees were not men of vision, either.
“Major,” huffed head coach Joel Quenneville, looking pale and frustrated Sunday night after the Blackhawks lost, 3-2, to fall behind, way behind, 0-3 in this Western Conference Quarterfinal against the Vancouver Canucks.
The defending Stanley Cup champions have greater problems, of course, than what the NHL does about Raffi Torres, if anything. He led with his elbow and took a run at Seabrook midway in the second period, flattening the Blackhawk defenseman in a scary fashion. Torres has a record that won’t earn him any Lady Byng votes, and he might yet receive a suspension for this latest bit of aggression. But two minutes for interference was his penance, and although Patrick Sharp
scored to forge a 2-2 tie during the manpower advantage, Quenneville’s point was salient. If Torres had been excused for five minutes, the home team might have feasted instead of merely ended their famine with that second powerplay goal of the night.
Seabrook returned, and spoke clearly after the game, not that he had to talk loudly to be heard in the Blackhawks’ quarters. If the Canucks win again on Tuesday night, the season is over in Chicago. The Blackhawks dug themselves a hole in Vancouver, and it became only deeper and darker on home ice, before 21,743 fans.
Quenneville put John Scott in the lineup and on the powerplay for a spell. The coach even called a timeout to remind his charges that their 5-on-3 situation midway in the first period could be a game-breaker. They led 1-0 on Duncan Keith
’s bullet, and another puck behind Roberto Luongo would have been healthy. But, it was not to be and when Scott went off for interference, the Canucks pounced for a power-play marker of their own. It was 1-1, and you detected an eerie feeling in the building. Despite an energetic start, the Blackhawks were neither leading nor dominating.
“I don’t know,” said captain Jonathan Toews
, when asked how the Blackhawks can manufacture momentum to avert a sweep. He did not sugarcoat the obvious. We are where we deserve to be, he said. Toews fired a volley at Torres, saying “he tried to hurt one of our players.” But really now, what does it matter? The Blackhawks can’t afford to zero in on him Tuesday night, even if he plays. Luongo would be a better target. He was quite good again in Game 3, by the way.
An honored guest appeared, as promised, beside Jim Cornelison for the two anthems. When the Blackhawks visited Washington, D.C., last month, their first stop was Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where they bonded instantly with a longtime fan—Sgt. 1st Class John Masson, who lost both legs and his left arm while serving in Afghanistan. John McDonough, the Blackhawks' president, called it the most important off-day in team history. He also invited Masson to the United Center for a hockey game, and Masson wisely chose a playoff game. When he was wheeled out onto the ice, it was as though the sellout crowd knew all about him, because he received a standing O. The Blackhawks went to the White House to be hailed by President Obama, but they still talk about those wounded soldiers.
Now, I’m guessing that McDonough would characterize Tuesday as the Blackhawks’ most important work day since training camp convened in September.