Lesson learned, Blackhawks brace for Kings’ best shot in Game 2Continue reading.
Toews, Blackhawks promise to let it all hang out in Game 5 vs. Kings: ‘We’ll work our way out of it’
It’s hard to believe that in the middle of the second period of Game 2 of the Western Conference final the Blackhawks were in complete control, their chances of winning the Stanley Cup as good as they’ve been this postseason — up 2-0 in a series they led 1-0 after a convincing Game 1 victory, and controlling the puck and the game. When Brent Seabrook was denied by Jonathan Quick on a 2-on-1 that would have made it 3-0, it appeared to be a simple missed opportunity rather than a turning point.
A week later, the Blackhawks are fighting for their playoff lives. They’ve allowed 15 goals since that early series apex, losing 6-2, 4-3 and 5-2 to fall behind 3-1 in the series heading into Game 5 on Wednesday night at the United Center. With the Kings beating them in every area — power play, penalty kill, in front of the net, goaltending, you name it, the Hawks’ chances of winning the Cup have never been worse in the last two years.
That’s how quickly things can change. And the Hawks are clinging to the hope that it can turn around just as quickly. The odds are against them, but then again, the Hawks once were in control of this series. And confidence can sway any playoff series to and fro, as the Kings know well. They once trailed the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in the first round before winning four straight games. They once led the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 after winning two games on the road — only to lose the next three games before rallying to win Games 6 and 7 to take that series.
“We’re going to be a desperate hockey team tomorrow night,” Seabrook said Tuesday after the team returned from Los Angeles. “We’ve got to come out, lay everything on the line or else our season’s over. I think we understand that.”
The Hawks now have no choice to play every game like it’s Game 7.
“We’ve got to give it everything and nothing less,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “Credit that team — they’re a good team. But we know we’ve got more. We know that there’s something else we can bring to the table. We’ve just got to do some little things here and there to make ourselves feel good and get that confidence, get that swagger back in our game.”
Asked about the mood of the team — Disappointed? Angry? — with a 3-1 deficit, forward Bryan Bickell said “a bunch of both.
“We’re disappointed that we’re in this situation, down 3-1; angry that it could’ve easily been tied this series or [ahead]. We let some games slip away. We played good hockey for 40 minutes [in Game 2] and then kind of gave it up in the third. We just need to focus on [Game 5] and bring that 60 minutes of having a purpose every shift and do whatever it takes and do the right things.”
The Hawks are leaning on experience like never before. They trailed the Red Wings 3-1 and in an 0-for-13 streak on the power play — in the second round last year, then won three straight games to win the series and eventually the Cup.
“We know it can be done,” Seabrook said. “LA. did it against San Jose this year. There are situations where things can be done and we’ve got to come out and give it our all. We have to play our game, lay it all on the line and let the chips fall where they may. And at the end of the night we hope to have a victory and hopefully be flying back to L.A.
“That’s our focus right now. The guys were upbeat and excited for the game [Wednesday] night. So we’re just going to get some rest [Tuesday night], get some food back in us and be focused for [Game 5] to try and get this thing going.”
The comeback against the Red Wings was a popular theme after the Hawks lost 5-2 in Game 4 to fall into the 3-1 hole. But the Kings are a tougher opponent — a team two years removed from the Stanley Cup championship with experience and depth and veteran defense and a great goaltender. This appears to be a much bigger hill to climb. Right, Joel Quenneville?
“You look at Game 2 — [that] was a tough game to lose and obviously got them to go ahead of us now 3-1. So we’ve definitely got a dangerous [opponent],” Quenneville said. “They’ve got a real good club over there. They’ve had some interesting stretches in these playoffs this year. So we know what they’re capable of.
“They’re a good team in a lot of ways. We feel we played two good periods in the last three games. The differential is one period where it got away from us [5 goals in the third period of Game 2]. We’ve let in some uncharacteristic type of goals in this series that we probably haven’t seen all year or in the playoffs, that we think are preventable. We shore that up, and we’ll keep ourselves in the game and find a way.”
The big question is how? And how quickly can they reverse their fortunes against a team that is bent on revenge for losing to the Hawks last year and knows how to win big games. Even the power of Toews hasn’t been enough — his two goals in Game 3 ended up being for nought in a 4-3 loss. The Kings overwhelmed the Hawks in Game 4, leading 3-0 in the first period.
But Toews, as usual, was resolute.
“I don’t think we played that poorly [in Game 4],” Toews said. “We just made one mistakes and their confidence just kind of snowballed on us. Next thing you know, it doesn’t matter how hard you work and how many shifts you spend in their zone, it’s tough to get back in a game like [that].
“We’ve got to find a way to get those bounces and get things going our way. We’ll work ourselves out of it.”