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Did Cup hopes just vanish?

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 12:20 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 12:20 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Charles Rex Arbogast)
Jonathan Toews and Stars defenseman Trevor Daley battle for position during a game last Tuesday in Chicago. Toews was injured in Sunday's loss, and if he can't comeback for playoffs, the Hawks' hopes of repeating as champions might be over.

If you wondered what the end of the Blackhawks' championship hopes might look like, then Jonathan Toews crumpling along the boards after a devastating hit by Brooks Orpik in Pittsburgh on Sunday night qualifies as one depressing example.

Toews had his head down. Orpik drilled him. I don’t think we’ll be needing Grant Park this June.

Toews is the most indispensable Hawk. He does everything in every situation, and he seems to do it first and best. He’s the hardest-working and the most talented all-around Hawk, the way a captain should be.

Now he’s injured, and nobody is saying how badly, or for how long as the playoffs loom in 16 days.

Joel Quenneville said he doesn't think it's serious. This would be a good time for the coach to be right, because the hit looked serious enough to give every other Stanley Cup contender new hope.

NBC Sports Network analyst Mike Milbury said Orpik hits to hurt players. He should. That’s the object of the exercise, if done legally.

Milbury seemed to want to call Orpik a cheap-shot artist, but the tough-talking analyst pulled that punch. Whatever, if you get the chance to legitimately check a guy out of the game, you do it.

And Orpik’s hit looked legal. Orpik appeared to hit Toews with both skates on the ice at contact, launching as part of the follow-through.

Something else, people: Toews has a responsibility here, too. He has to keep to his head up, and he knows it.

There’s no reason any opponent would ease up on the Hawks’ best player, and he knows that, too. Every opponent targets him first and hardest.

Keith Jones, the other NBC Sports Network studio analyst, didn’t seem to like the lack of caveman response by the Hawks, the default setting for old analysts.

No, Hawks players did not immediately jump Orpik, which would’ve drawn a penalty and perhaps a suspension. The Hawks had a game to win. They needed points to gain home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Truth is, the troglodyte talking heads didn’t realize the Hawks were displaying playoff-like discipline.

And an additional truth is this: It doesn’t matter if the hit was dirty or cried for an answer. It only matters to the Hawks’ future that Toews appeared to be hurt badly.

Even with Toews, the Hawks might not repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Without him, I can’t see them even beating Colorado in the first round.

The Hawks already had an issue at center, no matter what Stan Bowman thought. Without Toews, the Hawks would be a complete doughnut.

Perhaps Toews will come back for the playoffs, or perhaps earlier, but I’m not confident he’ll return in top form, not when an injury to his left arm or shoulder area easily could hamper everything from faceoffs to shooting.

Same goes for Patrick Kane, just substitute a knee hampering everything from his speed to his power-play talent to his world-class game of keepaway.

The Hawks already were playing badly without Kane. They look disorganized, their best players are making some of the worst mistakes, and they seem to have little confidence.

Now this.

We can hope Quenneville’s right. We can hope it’s not serious. Otherwise, it’s baseball season.

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