Lesson learned, Blackhawks brace for Kings’ best shot in Game 2Continue reading.
Blackhawks ready for Game 7 against Kings
Joel Quenneville doesn’t do big speeches. It’s not his style.
“No frill tonight,” he said.
The Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings don’t need any extra motivation tonight. It’s a winner-take-all Game 7 for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final — a fitting capper to a remarkable Western Conference final.
“It’s almost like it’s an overtime game right from the start,” Patrick Sharp said. “From the first shift of the first period. We’re excited to get going, and we’re glad we’re in Chicago.”
Having the home crowd might not make the difference on the ice, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The atmosphere at the United Center was electric in the Hawks’ double-overtime victory in Game 5. Game 7 might even top that.
“Last game we played at home, that was probably the loudest I’ve ever played in the United Center,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “It was unbelievable the way the crowd gave us energy and it was probably the loudest I’ve ever played in the United Center. If the crowd can bring the same energy in the building, it’s going to take a lot for L.A. to beat us.”
The Hawks have erased a 3-1 series deficit to force this Game 7, just as they did last year against the Detroit Red Wings. In that Game 7, Hjalmarsson’s goal with less than two minutes left was disallowed, but the Hawks still won on Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal. So while the Hawks are 1-11 all time when trailing 3-1 in a series, they’re on a one-series win streak in such situations. In fact, they’re trying to become the first team to ever pull it off in consecutive postseasons, and only the second team in NHL history to do it in a conference final (the New Jersey Devils did it in 2000).
Meanwhile the 19 Kings expected to play tonight are a combined 64-2 in Game 7s, including two road Game 7 victories in the first two rounds. No team has ever made it to the Final after going seven games in each of the first two rounds, so the Kings are looking to make history, too.
“Being down 3-1, to come back and bring it back home for Game 7, we’re definitely excited,” Bryan Bickell said. “We’re one win away from being in the finals, and we’re going to leave everything out there tonight.”
So, no, Quenneville doesn’t have to break out a big flowery speech at 6:55 p.m. tonight. The players are well aware of what’s at stake.
“Just enjoy it, have fun,” said Sharp who said he doesn’t get nervous for games like this. “A lot of us have been in this situation before, we’ve been in big games in this building, whether it’s Game 7 or just a big game in general. We know what to expect. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere and we’re ready for it.”
Even Brandon Saad, all of 21 and in his second year in the NHL, has been through this before, and understands exactly what the Hawks have to do tonight.
“We’re looking to play every shift, every period, like it’s our last,” he said. “Because it could be.”