Kings just might be better than Blackhawks

Written By BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist Posted: 05/27/2014, 09:42am

LOS ANGELES — Nasty, nasty. Ugly, ugly.

Losing a key playoff game 5-2 is one thing. Going down three goals to none before you can say, ‘‘Help, Bobby Hull!’’ is another.

So it was before the first period ended. So it was after only 16 minutes of play.

Can we add this? Sad, sad.

There was lots of talk by the Blackhawks before Game 4 of the Western Conference final Monday against the Los Angeles Kings about penalties. About not getting them. About not letting the Kings have power plays, on which they scored two of their three goals in the first period.

Well, power plays or no power plays, it’s not all about staying out of the penalty box. The Hawks got smeared and committed too many penalties, but it’s OK to prevent goals when you’re short-handed, too.

Remember Game 3, when Hawks captain Jonathan Toews scored while short-handed? That’s an option, too.

If you were in Staples Center on Monday, you just knew it wasn’t going to help when the Hawks pulled goalie Corey Crawford while trailing 4-2 with three minutes left. The Kings made it 5-2 on an empty-netter.

There’s a chance the Kings are a better team than the Hawks.

Duh, you say. That’s obvious.

But it isn’t. Or, rather, it wasn’t — until the Hawks’ shocking 6-2 loss in Game 2 at the United Center, a game they had led 2-0.

‘‘We want to make sure we get off to a strong start,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said before the game.

Nice thought, but the Hawks imploded fast.

‘‘It seemed like we had a good couple of shifts there early on,’’ defenseman Duncan Keith said. ‘‘Unfortunately, a few mistakes, and it was in the back of our net real quick. Then we were playing catch-up. . . . It’s tough to come back.’’

Yes, it is. And being down 3-1 in games means the Hawks have to win every time they play the Kings from here on out.

‘‘We were in the same position last year against Detroit,’’ Keith said, showing faith.

We know the Hawks are capable of coming back, but right now you have to wonder how they would do it. Maybe it will take Crawford to do the old stand-on-his-head routine.

‘‘It wasn’t easy last year,’’ said winger Patrick Kane, who hasn’t scored a goal in the series. ‘‘This one’s not going to be easy.’’

The Kings are fast, tough and skilled. So are the Hawks.

A lot of folks think they’re the two best teams in hockey. Between them, they have won three of the last four Stanley Cups. If the survivor of this series wins the Cup this season, you could say that team is a budding dynasty.

It was thought no franchise could remain dominant in the salary-cap era. The good players would ask for too much money and leave. Some teams would overspend on a star or two and be hamstrung for years.

But it hasn’t happened with the Hawks and Kings. General managers Stan Bowman and Dean Lombardi have plans, and they’ve stuck to them without bankrupting themselves.

The only thing to wonder about, after the blueprint, is desire. Injuries can derail anything, of course. But what we’ve got now are two healthy teams, so what’s up with the Hawks?

It would be lovely to see Kane score the way he has in the past. Confidence never has been Kane’s problem. According to Quenneville, confidence isn’t an issue for anyone right now.

And a third Cup in five seasons is something Quenneville knows will happen.

‘‘There’s never a doubt in our minds,’’ he said before the game.

Plus, Quenneville said the Hawks aren’t fatigued.

‘‘None, no, not at all,’’ he said.

That seems hard to believe after all these games, all these shifts, skating without a break for the last eight months. And never mind the Winter Olympics hiatus. Ten Hawks played in the Sochi Games.

Maybe the Hawks are being manhandled by a superior club.

‘‘Can’t really think about what happened the first four games,’’ Kane said.

Don’t want to, either.


Twitter: @ricktelander

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