CHICAGO – Those who wanted to play the blame game after the Blackhawks’ 4-3 shootout loss Thursday against the St. Louis Blues had no shortage of targets.
They could blame slow-footed defenseman Michal Rozsival for whiffing at the puck and coughing up a one-goal lead early in the third period.
They could blame hot-and-cold goaltender Corey Crawford for giving up a juicy rebound that spoiled a tie score a few minutes later.
They could blame all 20 Hawks players for taking a collective nap instead of trying to extend the lead.
As for me, I blame the beer guy.
I don’t know his name. Otherwise, I would write it here.
Let’s call him Rufus, just for fun.
This guy, whose real name almost certainly is not Rufus, is about average height, average weight, and he sports a bushy brown beard. It’s the kind of facial hairstyle that says, “Home Address: Woods.”
Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the Hawks’ meltdown was Rufus’ fault.
It was halfway through the third period, and Rufus (maybe he looked like more of a Pete?) was selling beers in the 300-level seats directly in front of the press box. Last call was coming up, and Rufus (maybe he looked like more of a Josh?) should have been focusing on his sales.
But he glanced up toward the press box, where he spotted Les Grobstein, the venerable overnight host at WSCR-AM 670.
This happens from time to time. Rufus (maybe he looked like more of a Joe?) will shout a quick sports-related comment or question to Les in between beer sales, and Les will lean forward in the press box and provide a friendly response.
It’s like a sports call-in show minus the phones and the radio signal.
This time, Rufus (maybe he looked like more of a Phil?) shouted a Cubs comment to Les.
“How bout that Carlos Marmol?”
It was quite loud in the stadium, which was understandable a) because the building featured a sellout crowd of 22,081; and b) because a hockey game was taking place. So Rufus (maybe he looked like more of a Dave?) repeated himself and added some context from the afternoon’s Cubs game.
“How bout that Carlos Marmol trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?”
Right as he finished saying “jaws of victory,” the Blues scored to take the lead.
True story. Ask Les.
To invoke Marmol’s name is to invite a headache-inducing sports moment. Marmol is famous for tossing Cubs leads into the giveaway pile. The Hawks are flirting with a similar reputation.
If you add up all of the first periods this season, the Hawks have a plus-18 goal differential. In the second period, the Hawks are even better at plus-21. In the third period, the Hawks are minus-2.
The Hawks regrouped with 4:31 remaining in regulation to force overtime, but that wasn’t the point. They lost in a six-round shootout despite goals by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, but that wasn’t the point, either.
The point is that the Hawks can’t cough up third-period leads in the playoffs like they did Thursday.
And Rufus (maybe he looked like more of a Mike?) can’t be mentioning Marmol late in a close game.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.