Blackhawks draw Wild in first round of Stanley Cup playoffsContinue reading.
Rested Blackhawks ready to step it up a notch in second-round vs. Avalanche-Wild winner
The Avalanche or Wild? Bryan Bickell doesn’t have a preference.
“Colorado’s had our number this year. Minnesota’s closer travel,” Bickell said Wednesday after the Blackhawks practiced at Johnny’s West. “High attitude in Colorado, which doesn’t favor bigger guys like me. But we’ll wait and see. Whoever we play, we’ll adjust.”
The Blackhawks usually do. After the rough-and-tumble series against the St. Louis Blues — next to Vancouver in 2011 the toughest first-round opponent the Hawks have faced in their six seasons as Stanley Cup contenders — the question was whether the six-game series left them with enough gas in the tank. Now with two days off and at least four days before their next game, the questions will be whether they have accumulated rust in the layoff and can get right back into high gear against a team coming off the exhilaration of a seven-game series victory. The Avalanche and Wild play Game 7 tonight in Denver.
“There’s definitely momentum and confidence, too,” Bickell said, “for what we did being down 2-0 [to the Blues] and playing good hockey every game. We have momentum. A couple of days off rest, but we have two days to prepare.”
The Blackhawks have a difficult road to the Stanley Cup, but they also have a history of raising their game to the level of each challenge. While the Blues series might have taken a lot out of them mentally and physically, it also might have energized them. In their previous Cup-winning playoffs, they didn’t play their best series until after they and played an elite opponent. In 2010, they swept the Sharks in the Western Conference final after beating the Canucks in the second round. Last year they beat the defending champion Kings in five games after beating the Red Wings in seven games in the second round.
“That was a good test for us to come out of that series [against the Blues]. Great team,” Bickell said. “Last year against Minnesota [in the first round] I don’t want to say we coasted, but we weren’t playing good hockey. Then we played Detroit and got our hats handed to us. To come out of that series [against the Blues], we have confidence.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is not worried about his team losing its edge with the layoff between series.
“I don’t think you lose it,” Quenneville said. “You want to try to keep it, sustain it, and if you don’t get it, you want to make sure you get it back.
“The team that wins tonight [the Avalanche or Wild] will be sky high and excited to start the series. It’s not like we’ve been off that long and you know how hard and challenging it was. That last series should give us excitement in our game as well. Getting off to a better start than the first series is what we’ve talked about.”