“I’ve seen this movie before…”
I love the aforementioned phrase and I use it often – not so much on Twitter, but more in real life. You know the gist of it: You think you know how a situation is going to unfold based on the story you’ve seen thus far. But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, there’s a twist, leading to an ending you didn’t think would occur.
When I use that phrase, it’s usually when someone asks or talks to me about the Blackhawks. “They’re down by too much.” “They don’t have it this season.” “This team won’t get out of the first round.” Heard that last one quite a bit last spring. My response to most of that is, yes, “I’ve seen this movie before…”
The Blackhawks haven’t looked good lately. They suffered their fourth consecutive loss on Wednesday, a 3-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers. They’ve been inconsistent since completing their franchise-best, 12-game winning streak. The problems have been the same: They’re giving up too many goals on one end and not scoring enough on the other. The lines have been inconsistent, as has the defense. Coach Joel Quenneville has tried a myriad of combinations to try and stoke both. Corey Crawford, so great through most of his season, has had more bloated numbers in recent starts. Whether it’s because Crawford is just struggling or he’s worn down – he is currently day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not go to Winnipeg – remains to be seen.
But in each season/lengthy postseason, the Blackhawks have had concerns.
In 2013, they were down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals. Most had them done – I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I could find the half-completed “eulogy” I had written after that Game 4 loss.
Last season, the Blackhawks had line consistency issues until they hit upon the Kris Versteeg-Brad Richards-Patrick Kane combination in November/December. They lost four straight heading into the postseason. Losing Michal Rozsival after the second round was supposed to be their undoing. So were the Anaheim Ducks.
You get the point.
The Blackhawks have succeeded in the postseason for various reasons. They’ve clicked at the right time. They’ve relied on core players to push them through – please see Jonathan Toews vs. the Ducks, Game 7 – and they’ve maintained mental toughness. That last one is particularly important. Mental toughness is an underrated necessity in the playoffs, when players have to get past the physical grind, and as of now only the Los Angeles Kings match the Blackhawks in that category.
I’m not saying the Blackhawks will win the Cup this season. They could very well come up short. It’s a pretty damn hard trophy to win once let alone three times in the past six seasons as the Blackhawks have done. There’s also a reason no team has repeated for nearly 20 years – again, it’s pretty hard to do so, even when problems are at a minimum.
But the bottom line is this: the Blackhawks have usually found ways, even when it seemed they were done.
The Blackhawks have issues right now, ones they have to correct sooner rather than later, or it will be a short postseason. There’s no denying that. But even with what’s happening at the moment, be very careful about writing an ending you think is supposedly obvious.
I have seen this movie before. So have you.