I can understand Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews’ anger over his questionable tripping penalty in overtime that led to Montreal’s winning goal.
I also can understand coach Joel Quenneville’s anger over the call that cost his team a critical point in an asphyxiating playoff race.
Look, the Toews’ penalty in overtime wouldn’t have mattered if Toews has scored in regulation. Same goes for Marian Hossa. And Tomas Kopecky and Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer and every Hawk except Patrick Kane, although if he wants to make it a two-goal night, I’ll alert the Shirtless Limousine Co.
Since leading goal-scorer Patrick Sharp went down on March 20, the Hawks have scored nine goals in seven games. Hossa has no goals in his last four and just two in his last nine. Kopecky has nothing in six and one in 10. Bickell has one in 12. Brouwer hasn’t hit the back of the net since around Valentine’s Day, and then on Tuesday night, he missed a flying check and injured himself hurtling into the boards.
So those are your Hawks right now: adding injury to impotence.
There are a lot of Hawks who stink offensively right now, but it all starts with Toews. The first Hawk to lift the Stanley Cup since 1961 hasn’t scored in four games --- not so much as a measly second assist --- and is a minus-4 in that stretch. The Conn Smythe winner has scored one goal in the last nine games --- even before Sharp went down --- and is a minus player over that time. Haven’t heard much MVP talk lately, have you?
I’m not trying to be mean or snarky here. I’m trying to make a point: Captains in hockey lead by example, and unfortunately, the Hawks have been following Toews’ unacceptable and ill-timed slump. Toews rightly earned endless praise and Hart Trophy candidacy for his stretch from Feb. 1 through March 14 when he lit up the league for 13 goals and 31 points in 20 games. That was the stretch when the Hawks rocketed into the playoff race.
Recently, they’ve smelled like a team trying to back into the postseason, clinging to the eighth spot by two measly points with three games to go. One of those games comes tonight, the second half of a back-to-back against the kind of team you don’t want to see the second night: the St. Louis Thugs.
Eliminated from playoff contention, St. Louis figures to have its hate on, which is nothing new when we’re talking about the third-most penalized team in the NHL and the league leaders in majors. It’s the kind of team that can make a tired opponent quit, especially in the third period, and we know how inept the Hawks can be after the second intermission at home.
They should be past that. They should be stronger mentally than the evil Blues. They should be disciplined to take the hit, let the Blues serve the penalty, then kill them on the power play and get the two points.
They should be, yes, but you can’t be sure with this group.
One thing I’m sure of, though, is tonight is a must-win. Another thing I’m sure of: Toews is a must-show-up.