Hawks have huge edge in playoff experience
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com April 30, 2013 11:11PM
Hawks winger Bryan Bickell delivers a hard hit on Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck in the first period of the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild playoff game April 30, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: June 2, 2013 6:30AM
Every player in the Blackhawks’ lineup for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals Tuesday had played in a Stanley Cup playoff game before.
Nine members of the Minnesota Wild hadn’t.
‘‘It’s probably an emotional level that I’ve never been to in my life before,’’ Wild center Kyle Brodziak said before the game. ‘‘That’s going to be my challenge — being able to put the emotions aside and keep my focus.’’
Even behind the bench, the disparity in experience was
jarring. The Hawks’ Joel Quenneville was coaching his 140th playoff game. The Wild’s Mike Yeo was coaching his first (though he was an assistant when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009).
Yeo hoped the Wild’s mad scramble to get into the postseason as the eighth seed, which included a do-or-die road victory Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche to close the regular season, helped prepare his team mentally for the heightened pressure of the playoffs.
‘‘Dealing with those emotions, we’d like to think [that] should help us,’’ he said. ‘‘The fact that we’ve had to perform under pressure and deal with those emotions, we think that should help.’’
One of the Wild’s key players, 19-year-old rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin, said he was excited but nervous.
‘‘I’m nervous before every game,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a good thing to be nervous. It means you’re ready.’’
The mullet is back. And it has a new friend.
Winger Patrick Kane, whose ‘‘business in the front, party in the back’’ hairstyle became a fan favorite during the Hawks’ run to the 2010 Stanley Cup, decided to regrow the mullet for the 2013 playoffs. And he persuaded rookie Brandon Saad to do it, too.
‘‘His looks pretty good,’’ Kane said. ‘‘I think it’s fun, and it’s good for a laugh or two. It’s something that’s been a little bit of a tradition since we started in the playoffs. I’ve had some fun with it, and I think a lot of people that follow the Blackhawks have had some fun with it, too. That’s all it’s really for.’’
When they got their haircuts Monday, Saad went first. Besides the short cut up front and the long hair in the back, Saad got two old-school lines carved into his temples. Kane got three.
‘‘I’ve got to earn my stripes,’’ said Saad, who also will grow a playoff beard.
Meanwhile, winger Brandon Bollig shaved his head, and defenseman Johnny Oduya shaved down the sides of his hair into a sort of faux-hawk.
Henrik Karlsson still wears orange-and-black Calgary Flames shoulder pads.
‘‘But nobody can see that under my nice Blackhawks jersey,’’ he said.
Karlsson, the Hawks’ 6-8 goalie, dressed as Corey Crawford’s backup as Ray Emery continues to recover from a lower-body injury (Quenneville said he might be ready to travel for Game 3). Emery will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and Karlsson is trying to maximize his opportunity, even if it only comes in practices.
‘‘I just want to try to do whatever I can here and try to prove that I should be here next year, too,’’ he said.
Quenneville said it was a coach’s decision to make the more experienced Karlsson (26 career NHL games) the backup ahead of Carter Hutton, who made his NHL debut in the Hawks’ regular-season finale Saturday at St. Louis.
The Wild was without winger Jason Pominville, who had 14 goals and 20 assists this season. He is recovering from a concussion suffered April 23.
‘‘He’s just not quite ready,’’ Yeo said. ‘‘We’ve got to look at the big picture and make sure when we get him back in, we get him back in for good.’’
The Hawks were again without Emery and center Dave Bolland (groin).