Pick-up six: Blackhawks want to close out series Sunday
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter April 26, 2014 8:26PM
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews ended Game 5 with a breakaway goal against Ryan Miller. All five games in the series have been tight, thrilling affairs. | Chris Lee/AP
Updated: May 28, 2014 6:52AM
For all their skill, depth, all-star talent and championship pedigree, the Blackhawks are not a team known for a knockout punch in the postseason. Even with a big left hook, the team somehow always ends up winning on points.
The defending Stanley Cup champions already have lost a lead six times in five games of their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. They’ve allowed five goals in the final two minutes of a period — including tying goals with 1:45 and 6.4 seconds left in regulation. Too often it seems with a belt up for grabs, the Hawks float like a bee and sting like a butterfly.
But with three consecutive split-decision victories after a 2-0 series deficit, it’s pretty clear the Blackhawks still have the heart of a champion. So even though they’ve struggled and fought their way to a 3-2 series lead with the equally game and equally deserving Blues, the Blackhawks might be at their most dangerous with a chance to clinch the series Sunday at the United Center.
Though they often can’t stand prosperity throughout the course of a playoff series, the Hawks of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane & Co. know how to get the job done. Under Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks are 10-2 with a chance to clinch a series, including 4-0 last season when they won the Stanley Cup.
The only losses in that span were against the Canucks in the second round in 2010: In Game 5 at the United Center when the Hawks knew they had another home game in their pocket and lost 4-1; and in Game 7 against the Canucks in the opening round in 2011, when they lost 2-1 in overtime in Vancouver.
Six of those clinching victories have come in Game 6, when the Hawks avoided a roll-of-the-dice Game 7. Though the Blues will be in full desperation mode, the Blackhawks figure to be particularly mindful of closing this one out now knowing that Game 7 would be at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The Hawks famously work without a net in the postseason, but they seem to have a knack for avoiding death-defying stunts.
“It’s tough to say exactly the reason why,” Quenneville said. “I like the competitiveness of our group. We’ve got some guys who like to rise to the challenges in big games and big settings and I think they’ve proven that with their history. They get excited in that situation. I think that experience in these situations can be beneficial.”
The way this series has ensued, the Hawks know what they’re up against. The Blues aren’t a nuisance like the Wild was in last year’s opening round, or even the Predators in 2010. They’re a dangerous team that can win the Cup if they can get past this series.
“We don’t want to go back to St. Louis,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We’re going to try and do everything we can to finish it off. They have a great team and they were close. They could’ve had both games [at the United Center] and we could’ve had both games [in St. Louis]. It could have gone either way so far. Hopefully we can just release the handbrake and just go full force.”
It remains to be seen if the Hawks even have that in them. Even in crucial moments they tend to play with fire. In Game 7 against the Red Wings last year, the Hawks had all the momentum after victories in Games 5 and 6. But they still needed overtime to win 2-1.
“[The Blues] were a dominating team in the regular season and that’s why the game are so tight,” forward Marian Hossa said. “So we would prefer to do it [Sunday]. We know how important it is to win [Game 6].”