Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks will practice at the United Center on Friday in an attempt to regroup and rediscover the regular-season magic that has disappeared in their playoff series with the Detroit Red Wings.
The Hawks are in an unenviable position -- only 20 of 229 teams that have fallen behind 3-1 in a Stanley Cup playoff series have recovered to win the series. The last team to do that was Philadelphia against Boston in the 2010 Eastern Conference finals -- on their way to losing to the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
On the other hand, they still are the Blackhawks, a top-seeded team that set the pace in the regular season with 77 points in 48 games and earned the President's Trophy. They have two games at home, meaning they still only need to win one road game if they can hold serve at the United Center.
And though it so far has rung hollow, Jonathan Toews is still Jonathan Toews, a renowned leader with a sterling reputation for being a winner. Three penalties in one six-minute stretch and a heated rant at an official from the penalty box (''No [bleeping] way!'') erases that.
''We're all frustrated. It's not about one guy,'' Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said after Thursday night's 2-0 loss to the Wings at Joe Louis Arena that dropped them into a 3-1 hole in their Western Conference semifinal series. ''We're a whole team team in here. Jonny's the first one to say that. We're all frustrated. We're not happy with the situation we're in. But no one's going to feel sorry for themselves. It's a tough task to find our way out of it.''
The Hawks have had several issues exposed in the last three playoff games. the power play is abysmal and getting worse; Toews is still scoreless in the postseason; Brent Seabrook's playing time is diminishing; Marian Hossa, who normally finds some way to make a difference, has been all but invisible.
But judging by the competitiveness of the past two games, even those issues do not appear to be anything that a well-timed goal or two could fix. It's not like they're playing like the Bulls did in Games 2 and 3 against the Heat. The odds are against them, but the Hawks look like a good candidate to beat them. But as they know all too well, they have to make their breaks.
''Lot of posts. Lot of big saves by Jimmy [Howard],'' Sharp said. ''We knew he was a good goaltender before the series and he's making big saves out there. There's no use hanging our heads about it. The only thing we can do is play better the next game.''
''As hard as we're working, something's got to go our way,'' Toews said. ''We've got to be positive."
Coach Joel Quenneville put himself on the spot by changing up the lines in Game 4 without any luck. Quenneville usually has a fine touch with line changes, but in the playoffs, there's a fine line between coaching genius and desperation.
''You look at both games [in Detroit], I think we played OK,'' Quenneville said. ''We've just got to find a way to get more out of everybody.''
That's his job, of course. Now it's time for Quenneville to come through in the clutch. The blowback from a playoff loss to the seventh-seeded Red Wings as the No. 1 seed will be significant. Though as it stands now, it's not quite the upset it might look like on paper. In the last four seasons, No. 7-8 seeds are 12-9 in Stanley Cup playoff series (.571). No. 1-2 seeds are 17-13 (.567).
''Going into this series, we knew they were a good team and they played well in their prior series [against the Anaheim Ducks]. They had momentum going into it. The last couple games were tight games and every game is going to be like that going forward.
''We've just got to look at the small picture -- going back home, look at one game and that's it.''