CHICAGO - They haven’t lost Game 5 yet, so the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t lost hope.
All they’ve got left, after falling behind 3-1 in their series to the Los Angeles Kings, is the scarcely comforting knowledge that you’re still alive until you’re dead. So that’s what they’re going with in trying to convince everyone, including themselves, that the wounds suffered through four games of the Western Conference final aren’t fatal.
Their plan — what they’ve been able to map out so far, anyway — is to lift an arm or a leg out of that coffin they’ve been fitted for so L.A. can’t slam the lid.
If it works, they’ll make the rest up as they go along.
“It’s obviously not the way we drew it up (at the start of the series),” said Hawks defenceman Duncan Keith. “But we’ve got to regroup again and just find a way. Be excited about going back home to Chicago.
“All we have to do is win one hockey game. That’s all our focus is on: Just winning one hockey game. We were in the same position last year against Detroit and found a way, so it’s up to us to dig down deep and find a way.”
It was a much different time and place when they stormed back from 3-1 down on the Red Wings, but they have done it before, so those will be the memories they use to inspire themselves before Wednesday’s Game 5 at the United Center.
“It was a special feeling when we came back and were able to win it in seven games in overtime,” said Patrick Kane. “You can look back at that and say, ‘We came out and were successful, so why can’t we do it again?’
“It’s tough with the position we’re in right now, but at the same time, we still feel good about our team in here. You can’t really think about what happened the first four games now. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready for Game 5, focus in on that game solely, try and win that one, and see what happens after that.”
It seems an impossibly hard road, but it’s the only one that leads out of this mess.
“Just don’t look at the big picture,” said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. “If we do, obviously, we don’t like what we see. Just got to focus on the next game. We’re still alive in this series.
“Teams have come back from this situation before, even our team, even this group. So that belief and that confidence has to be there.
“We’ve just got to go do it. It’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s got to be everybody. We’ll have a great start to Game 5 and get excited and just enjoy the moment and get that energy and that swagger back.”
Being angry and desperate is good — it’ll help some — but it doesn’t change the significant issues that put Chicago in this 3-1 hole in the first place: Mediocre goaltending, crappy special teams, lost battles and costly mistakes at the wrong times. They’ve spent 12 periods trying to find a weakness in L.A.’s game and all they’ve managed to do is expose more holes of their own.
If they don’t fix a lot of those issues, then it’s bye-bye.
“We know that there’s something else we can bring to the table,” said Toews. “We’ve just got to do some little things here and there to make ourselves feel good.
“We’ve got to find a way to get that confidence and make plays. We’ve got tons of skill in this room, it’s just up to us and go out there and make plays and make things happen. We’ll work ourselves out of this.”