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Jonathan Toews takes Hawks to task for Game 3 effort

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Jonathan Toews vs. Wild (2).jpgThe Blackhawks volunteered just three players for interviews after their 2-1 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center -- a subtle sign of a sore loser.

But when Jonathan Toews is one of the three, it's often more than enough in these situations. We could have asked for Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa or Michael Rozsival to explain how the Hawks were beat up by the Wild with nary a response. But nobody did. We didn't have to.

While even coach Joel Quenneville was noticeably curt in his post-game interview (Asked how the Hawks could improve their power play, his response was as succinct as it could be: "Shoot."), Toews typically was soft-spoken, resolute and spot-on, especially when it came to the obvious storyline of the game -- the Wild's pummeling of the Blackhawks with impunity. It was 34-13 on paper, but much worse in reality.

''It's part of the game. It's something we can do, too,'' Toews said. ''It's not the only part of the game that we didn't take control of. Maybe they outhit us on paper, but there are a lot of other things that we didn't do right that we're going to have to get going if we want to win a game like this.''

Though Toews' voice could have echoed in the barren locker room after the game, it remains to be seen if his teammates get that message. Unless something catastrophic happens in a hockey game -- like Marian Hossa getting knocked out by a vicious hit -- there seems to be a delayed response to situations like this. Like a one-game lag. After the Blackhawks were outhit 17-4 in the first period, they were still outhit 7-2 in the second. And that's just on paper.

''Obviously a difference for [the Wild] in their own building,'' Toews said. ''They fed off the energy from their crowd and we didn't really respond.

''We let them do their thing through the second and midway through the third, too. It wasn't until late in the game that we started playing well and getting back to pursuing pucks and play on offense. I think that's when we're best as a team and best defensively as well when guys are skating, being available. That intenisty just wasn't there enough.''

Why was that?

''It's a good question,'' Toews said. ''We can't be satisfied with that effort. We had great goaltending. Crow [Corey Crawford] kept us in that game all game. Without him we probably wouldn't have stood a chance. It's up to us to respond and ask ourselves that question. And be much better the next one.''

Toews is a great player and leader. But unlike the Penguins' Sidney Crosby or the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, he can't carry a team on his back. He just kind of coaxes it into eventually following his lead. That takes time, which the Hawks actually have against an opponent lacking the firepower to make the Hawks pay too dearly for their lapses and slow responses. The Hawks were the best road team in the NHL this season. They had the sellout crowd celebrating the Wild's first home playoff game in five years out of the game in the first 10 minutes of the first period and then allowed it to become a factor.

''It's something we should expect,'' Toews said. ''But we probably didn't play as well as we should have under that pressure. We've got to understand this is what it is. We've got to play a smarter road game and understand that teams like that are going to try and overwhelm you. We've got to come back with more. We didn't respond enough.''

Toews acknowledged the Wild's resolve and effort in a game it had to win. But he also acknowledged another truth: the best team should still win this series.

''They've got some good players and they're a hard-working team,'' Toews said. ''But when we focus on what we have to do and how we can bring our best game and our best effort and bring that intensity that you need during the playoffs, we're a very difficult team to handle, too.

''We didn't make them worry about us and what we were doing quite enough [in Game 3]. We had a great goal by Duncs [Duncan Keith, to tie the game with 2:46 left in regulation]. I think that was a result of us playing the right way that we had to. We have to carry that into Game 4.''

As for the power play, Toews had a similar response as Quenneville -- with a little more pith to it.

''We've got to shoot the puck -- that's all I'm gonna say. We're not doing that,'' Toews said. ''We need to get shots -- not putting so much pressure on ourselves to make plays. The more we pass it around, the more we try and make pretty plays, the more likely it is that we're going to make a mistake.

''We just have to simplify things. We're a great team five-on-five when we're cycling in the zone. We have to do the same thing on the power play.''

Toews, for the record, has zero points in three games in this series. He needs to step it up as much as anyone. But his best role at this point of the playoffs isn't in scoring. It's in leading. Toews' teammates should have been in on his post-game interview. Lord knows, there was more than enough room.

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Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on May 6, 2013 8:12 AM.

Toews, Kane et al. could give Hawks road-ice advantage was the previous entry in this blog.

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