Turns out the roar of the crowd was "Detroit sucks."
To the dismay of the locals here, Detroit is healthy once again and their occasional bouts with sucktosis appear to be over. The Blackhawks lost to the archrival and role model Red Wings, 5-4, on Hockey Brunch in America when Detroit reeled off five consecutive goals within 15 minutes in the second period. As a result, the growing whispers of a possible Stanley Cup in Chicago for the first time since 1961 -- "I think they can ... I think they can"! -- have been quieted. But only until the next win.
"We know what we're capable of," captain Jonathan Toews said after the slightly humbling loss. "You have to be focused on winning it all. Today was just a learning experience."
At the re-christened Madhouse on Madison, where the season ticket-holder base has grown from 3,000 to 14,000 in the time in takes to say Toews to Kane, Cup craziness hits you the moment you walk in the door. Signs are everywhere with the simple declaration of "One Goal." (No, it's not winning the division). The pre-game scoreboard video tracing history from Hull to Hjalmarsson ended like this:
"Game of the Week.
"Rivalry for the Ages.
"Is This the Year"?
Again, it's fair to assume they're not referring to this being the year they win the West.
Veteran Chicago center John Madden, who owns two Stanley Cup rings from his years in title-focused New Jersey, said he welcomes the Cup chatter as long as his team maintains perspective.
"We've accomplished nothing," said Madden. "The Cup stuff is fine because we have a very good team and we have a legitimate shot. But let's take it in steps. Today was an education. The only difference is we didn't have to pay tuition. With our record being what it is, this loss didn't cost us much. Down the road, we'll probably view it as a crucial lesson."
By the way the Blackhawks performed over the first 64 games of the season (46-16-5), Chicagoans have every reason to believe in their team. By the way Joel Quenneville's kids turned a 2-0 lead into a loss on Sunday to the deeply experienced Red Wings, the town has every reason to break out the baseball skepticism. Even with the presence of big-ticket veterans Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell, these Blackhawks are cubs.
Look at the prime-timers Chicago is counting on the most in the playoffs. Patrick Kane, the team's leading scorer, is 21 years old. Gold-decorated captain Toews is just seven months older. Norris Trophy candidate Duncan Keith is 26 and his Chicago and Team Canada defense partner Brent Seabrook is 25.
Valuable next-level Blackhawks like Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Dave Bolland will be 25 or younger when the playoffs begin.
Despite gaining vital conference final experience against Detroit last spring, there isn't a contender in the league that receives more daily teaching than the Blackhawks get from Quenneville. After taking a 2-0 lead over Detroit on first period goals by Keith and Ladd, the home team lost its way.
"It's disappointing because this has happened too much lately," said Ladd, who had a hat trick in the loss.
An imaginary goaltender interference whistle by referee Mike Leggo early in the second cost the Blackhawks a three-goal lead and may have unnerved them. Quenneville called a timeout when goals by Detroit defensemen Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom tied the game soon after. Proving there's only so much even a top coach can tell his troops in 60 seconds, Chicago allowed three more goals in the period: Jason Williams (9:45), Valteri Filppula (10:27) and a back-breaker by Pavel Datsyuk with three seconds left in the second.
Two more goals by Ladd and a mad scramble late in the third -- "Good for the ratings," joked exhaling Red Wings coach Mike Babcock -- were not enough.
"They are who we thought they were," said Toews. "Where have I heard that before"?
Quenneville pulled starter Cristobal Huet after the Filppula goal made it 4-2. Although the blown lead was hardly Huet's fault, the hook will do nothing to calm Chicago's queasiness about their team's goaltending. But the thrilling, oh-so-close comeback in the third proved how good the Blackhawks can be when they're pushing the play.
"It's not how young you are," said Rafalski, with multiple rings from New Jersey and Detroit. "It's how good you're playing. Winning a championship should be every team's goal coming into the season."
"I don't have one," the Red Wings coach with a grin. "I just told you guys a bunch of stuff I don't really believe either."
Make no mistake: the Blackhawks believe.