CHICAGO | Two points.
How ‘bout that?
The February progression of the Blackhawks has been snails-paced. A scattered two points here. A series of one-point gains here and there in overtime games that ended up in losses. A complete blanking at other times while the rest of the Western Conference racked up numbers and widened their distance from the mildly pursuing Hawks.
So Sunday's entertaining 3-2 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that preceded the Hawks as Stanley Cup champs, diverted from the pattern. But only up to the two points the Hawks did garner when Patrick Kane made a sweet move around Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's right side for the game winner, the only score in six tries among both teams in a shootout.
Amid the low-key celebration in the postgame Hawks locker room was a voice of reason in goalie Corey Crawford. He'll take the pair of points, for sure, but he reminded a couple of visitors once again the Hawks should not have had to work so long for the victory.
"Winning a game in a shootout can definitely give your team some momentum," Crawford said. "But we had a chance to win one in regulation. Obviously we're happy, but I think we'd rather we finish that one off in 60 minutes."
The Sunday events were yet more proof that a palpable Stanley Cup hangover affects the Hawks, as it has almost every NHL champ in modern times. The same personnel, the same chemistry, the same hunger, the same fortunate bounces just don't duplicate themselves from season to season.
Interestingly, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma unwittingly described this season's Hawks perfectly when he confirmed his own team's hangover last season, which ended in a second-round knockout by the underdog Canadiens after a 101-point Penguins regular season.
"I think every coach tries to find out what a Stanley Cup hangover is after they've won," Bylsma said. "No one really can put their finger on what that actually is or means.
"We talked what we needed to do, we thought we could do it. We weren't able to have that mix. We were an OK team, but we didn't have the same type of team and togetherness and how we're going to win games as the previous year."
Bylsma's logic precisely describes this year's Hawks.
The words have been written in this space previously, but need to be repeated. If somehow the Hawks almost run the table, make the playoffs, catch fire in May and pull off a repeat, the feat will be far greater than Cup No. 1. And then each Hawk will be a rich man, with the hangover-busting formula for which teams have been searching for decades.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.