The Chicago Blackhawks’ history-making season is slipping into the same abyss that swallowed up other Presidents Trophy winners who couldn’t fulfill the promise of their regular-season success.
The Detroit Red Wings won Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, 2-0, to take a 3-1 lead and push the Hawks to an elimination game back in Chicago on Saturday.
The unraveling of the Blackhawks continued in Game 4.
Suddenly, captain Jonathan Toews isn’t just failing to score goals – he was a complete liability, taking three straight minor penalties in the second period. On the second one, the Red Wings finally solved the Chicago penalty kill, as Jakub Kindl scored with one second left on the man advantage.
The Blackhawks had killed the first 30 power plays they had faced in the postseason, and tied an NHL record for not allowing a power-play goal for their first eight games of the postseason.
Coach Joel Quenneville scrambled his lines before Game 4, putting Toews with Patrick Kane. The results didn’t arrive: Howard earned his second career shutout with 28 saves. Chicago brought the heat in the third period, but couldn’t break through before Dan Cleary’s empty netter iced it.
So the captain couldn’t stay out of the sin bin, the penalty kill failed and the coach as yet again out-coached by his adversary on the other bench.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings are looking more and more like their vintage playoff selves with each victory. Despite the inexperience on the roster, especially the blue line, the Wings have frustrated the Stanley Cup favorites to the brink of elimination.