Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
The steps in Patrick Kane’s hair and the length of it were a clear sign of the revitalized feeling among the Blackhawks. The playoff mullet is back.
“Right after the Minnesota game, that was my first phone call, to my barber,” Kane said. “He made the trip downtown, opened up the shop and gave me a quick haircut.”
The Hawks were all smiles Monday before they departed for Vancouver. They spoke about the range of emotions they experienced Sunday night as they watched the Wild stun the Dallas Stars. And they talked about being rejuvenated and energized about playing the rival Canucks.
“Hopefully, everyone can appreciate the second chance we’ve been given and we can do something with it,” Kane said. “A lot of us love playing in playoff hockey and love playing in that type of atmosphere up in Canada, where hockey is really loved.”
Most of the pressure, the Hawks say, is on the Canucks. Some players see themselves as the proverbial underdog despite being the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and they’re embracing it.
“Now, we are the underdog,” Kane said. “We really feel like we have nothing to lose, especially with what happened [Sunday] with maybe being out of the playoffs and now you get second life. Now, we’re going up to Vancouver to play the best team in the NHL.”
The Canucks finished with the most points in the league, saw goalie Roberto Luongo, the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler all have stellar seasons, revamped their blue line in the offseason and finished with the best goal differential in the league. Anything less than the trip to the Stanley Cup finals would be a disastrous disappointment for them.
It was a similar position the Hawks were in last year after their standout season and their run a year earlier to the Western Conference finals. But the Hawks also have confidence in knowing that no team frustrates the Canucks more than them. That history between the teams shines an even bigger spotlight on the Canucks after the Hawks eliminated them the last two postseasons.
“You wouldn’t want to wait to the second or third round to play a series like this,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “There’s less pressure on us than them. . . . We can go in and really play that underdog in this series and just try to be as tough to play against as we can. The guys are really excited to get this chance.”
The Hawks will need some things to fall into place to beat the Canucks, such as health and getting newcomers to emerge as playoff-capable performers. The Hawks are optimistic that Dave Bolland (concussion) and Troy Brouwer (shoulder) will play in the series — both will be needed.
“We want to make the most of this opportunity,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Looking at Vancouver, they’re first in the league and we just snuck in the playoffs. They’re the team that has more pressure than us.”
There’s still pressure on the Hawks. It comes with being the champions and wanting to play like it. But they’ve dealt with that the entire season. Don’t expect those feelings to change. If anything, they take pride in being able to overcome it.
“The biggest pressure is probably to get back to the playoffs,” Toews said. “It wasn’t any easy season. It wasn’t as smooth as it was last year. But we’re here. All you need to do is get in whether your No. 1 or No. 8. It doesn’t really matter. You still have to win four games to advance.”