(Photo: Blackhawks Facebook)
The Blackhawks crashed and burned at home Tuesday night, giving the Blues a 3-1 series lead and landing one of their postseason points leaders a suspension as they head into Game Five.
On the stat sheet, the Hawks were outhit 48-28. Off the sheet, they absorbed more subtle annoyances–slashes, cross-checks, spears, little late hits after the play–all devices filling them to the brim with with frustration. Correction: over the brim.
The normally level-headed team’s balloon of composure burst.
And it cost them one of the more effective forwards of the postseason so far–Andrew Shaw. He’s had four points in the four games, including a goal and two assists Tuesday. His net-front presence has no doubt benefited the Hawks’ limp offense.
With 2:04 left in the game, Shaw, known for being the kind of irritant that earns a nickname like “the mutt,” was called for interference when he responded to a hold near the net by pushing Jay Bouwmeester into the crease–a less violent version of the hit to the head Troy Brouwer gave him much earlier. A bit of a scrap followed, but his was the sole penalty called, leaving the Hawks shorthanded and Shaw enraged.
He threw a fit, raising his gloves in a “middle finger” gesture toward the officials on his way to the box. And, once inside, he tossed water bottles, and was shown on camera using inappropriate language.
During post-game he claimed not to remember what he said in the heat of the moment, but issued a statement Wednesday morning, saying his behavior kept him up the night before.
“I am sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made last night while in the penalty box. When I got home and saw the video, it was evident that what I did was wrong, no matter the circumstances. I apologize to many people, including the gay and lesbian community, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Blackhawks fans and anyone else I may have offended. I know my words were hurtful and I will learn from my mistake.”
The Blackhawks issued a statement of their own:
“We are extremely disappointed in Andrew Shaw’s actions last night. His comments do not reflect what we stand for as an organization. We are proud to have an inclusive and respectful environment, and to support various initiatives such as the You Can Play Project and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association. We will use this opportunity to further educate our players and organization moving forward, so that we all may learn from it.”
A Blackhawks beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, Chris Hine, wrote about his experience with Shaw.
“Even with all the restrictions in place in the modern sports media landscape, I have a bead on what kind of guy Shaw is after covering the Hawks for a full season. He doesn’t hide when the media enters the dressing room. He will stick around and talk for a few minutes and seems to enjoy the interaction. A number of times this season, I’ve gone to him just to talk and see how he’s doing. I always look forward to seeing him in the room and chatting.
Certainly, I was disappointed when I saw video surface of Shaw using the slur. He was vilified on social media, but I don’t want to cast stones. He has a reputation around the league for being an irritant on the ice, but I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I also don’t think he hates gay people. I just want to help him understand why what he said packs such a devastating emotional wallop…
“Shaw and I talked things over after his apology.
He was heartfelt in his pledge to learn from this, to stop using the word no matter how riled up he gets on the ice. I told him I didn’t view him any differently Wednesday than I did Monday. I’m still going to see how he’s doing when he’s in the locker room and still will pester him with hockey questions.”
Shortly after Shaw’s apology, the NHL announced Shaw’s punishment–a one-game suspension and $5,000 fine. He will also undergo sensitivity training. As said by NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell:
“While Mr. Shaw was apologetic and remorseful for both the offensive comments and the inappropriate gesture directed at the on-ice officials, he must be held accountable for his actions. The emotion of the moment cannot and will not be a mitigating factor for the conduct that is expected of an NHL player.”
This isn’t something Shaw or the Blackhawks will be taking lightly in the future.
“We can all be a little more conscious of the impact that word might have, and know that it can be used loosely,” Captain Jonathan Toews said. “I think we’re all thinking about that much more than [we had] before. And we stand behind Shawzie and who he is as a person, and behind his apology, as well.”
Though the league set an example with Shaw, the knowledge his actions hurt people around him was obviously significant outside the game.
It was significant within the game Tuesday as well. Here’s what happened.
Shaw’s penalty led to the close of the game, which ended with a 4-3 Blues victory and flurry of roughing penalties, game misconducts, and a spear between his legs courtesy of Alexander Steen.
But earlier, it was goalie Corey Crawford, who felt he’d taken one too many hits to the head and it was time to take matters into his own mitts.
With the game tied 1-1 in the second, Crawford took umbrage to Robby Fabbri striking his head in the crease.
A fracas broke out and, ultimately, Fabbri was sent to the box for goaltender interference–an incredibly inconsistently called penalty–giving the Blackhawks a power play while Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Andrew Ladd, and Crawford were called for roughing.
— NHLPlayoffs2016 (@NHLPlayoffs2K16) April 20, 2016
— Everything Chicago (@biggraham86) April 20, 2016
Seabrook beaten to the puck by Lehtera, then screens Crawford for the shot. https://t.co/4NLaj8Px06
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 20, 2016
And, they tied it at 2-2 late in the second when Ladd took a bad interference penalty and Shattenkirk-to-Steen-to-Tarasenko tallied a power play goal.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) April 20, 2016
The Blues would go ahead 3-2 with another power play goal scored by Jaden Schwartz (Shattenkirk, Tarasenko assisting) early in the third.
Schwartz goal pic.twitter.com/kgA986iSWs
— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 20, 2016
What a play by Steen to spring his goal pic.twitter.com/sHN5gU13ZK
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 20, 2016
With just over five minutes remaining, Shaw passed up to Artemi Panarin, who dished to Keith at the blue line for a one-timer that deflected over Elliott for a 3-2 game.
Duncan Keith gets a crazy bounce for his second goal of the game pic.twitter.com/dTwfcAXxUS
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 20, 2016
Alas, the Blackhawks would not recover from the end of game penalty kill, even with a Blues empty-net goal being called back. The game closed with more fisticuffs and 14 penalties assessed after the final buzzer.
For many, that would be distasteful.
Ken Hitchcock: “This is fun. This is what hockey’s about.”
— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) April 20, 2016
It seems Chicago has played right into St. Louis’ hands. They’ve fallen for every trick and now they’ve dug themselves a very messy hole of shame and regret.
They’ll be going into Thursday’s game “go win or go home.”
“We want to win the game [Thursday] night,” Toews said. “And the way we do that is not losing our cool, and focusing on the task at hand, and playing the way we know how to play the game, and focusing on the details of the game. You can’t do that if you’re losing your temper, your emotions. Obviously, at the end of the game last night it was at an all-time high I think for all of us, even on the bench and on the ice. But going forward we need to focus on what we need to do and keep ourselves in check in more ways than one.”
They came back down 2-0 and won four straight against St. Louis two years ago. In 2014, they were down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Kings before losing the Western Conference Final. In 2013, they came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round.
“We just have to look back to what has made us a successful team over the last number of years,” Toews told the Tribune. “There are some details present, and there are some that haven’t been in games we have lost.”
They can’t seem to get bounces to go their way this season, for example.
“I don’t know if there’s extra pressure,” Quenneville said. “When you’re down 3-1, I think it shifts, and everybody wants to win in the worst way. We’ve got to come with that attitude and appetite [Thursday] night. But I don’t think it’s any different than it’s been in other years.”
But the Blackhawks haven’t shown that hunger yet. There’s been no comeback magic. So far this postseason, veterans Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Ladd have been held scoreless.
They can’t crack Elliott. Shaw’s screens have provided the cover they needed for multiple goals in the series and he’ll be out for a potential elimination game. Someone has to be at the net to screen Elliott and/or redirect the puck. The Blackhawks also have to chase their shots and hammer at some rebounds.
They’re also not behaving themselves.
“Part of that is things that happen after the whistle; and it’s stuff that we’ve always done a good job of staying away from and keeping it between the whistles,” Toews said. “It’s just focusing our energy and our emotion in to the play that we bring on the ice. That’s what we’re going to need (Thursday) night.”
That leads to penalties, and special teams has been lacking–despite the return of Marcus Kruger, the penalty kill unit has allowed four power play goals on seven attempts in two games.
The Hawks’ defense is disappointing. Blues are also scoring off of rebounds. They’re scoring off of Blackhawks defenders. The Hawks simply aren’t clearing the puck, giving the highly-skilled Blues offense too many scoring chances. That’s where the failure to acquire strong defensive replacements is hurting the team. Keith, Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson can only do so much–and it’s leading to errors even by those skilled defensemen.
Quenneville will likely be mixing up the lineup for Game Five–the morning skate showed a variation from previous games.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 21, 2016
They’ll need to give it their all tonight. And, if they pull off this win, they have two more ahead.
“It takes four to win the series, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we have our best game,” Keith said. “We have to.”
Because it’s the Cup.
- Game 5: Chicago at St. Louis 8:30 p.m. CT Thursday, April 21, CSN-CH, NBCSN, TVAS, SN
- Game 6: St. Louis at Chicago, Saturday, April 23, TBA — if needed
- Game 7: Chicago at St. Louis, Monday, April 25, CSN-CH, TBA — if needed
(As always, click videos for views of goals and other plays, and bolded links for more information.)