Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews wants to end series Thursday
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com May 8, 2013 9:02PM
Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks - Game One
Updated: May 8, 2013 9:10PM
Even with zero points in four Stanley Cup playoff games, Jonathan Toews can still smell blood in the water.
With a 3-1 lead over the Minnesota Wild, the Blackhawks have three chances to close out their Western Conference quarterfinal series. And while the Hawks will take the series any way they can, Toews admitted it will say a lot more about the resolve of his team if the Hawks go for the kill in Game 5 tonight at the United Center.
They already had one chance, he said, and blew it.
‘‘I think we’ll learn from Game 3,’’ Toews said Wednesdsay, ‘‘that we had the chance to take control of this series and we knew exactly what to expect — that first game in their building was going to be a really good one for them. To be able to throw that effort back in their face would have been huge for us in showing them that even their best might not be good enough. And we didn’t do that at all.
‘‘This is a chance to kind of redeem ourselves for the way we played in Game 3. Everyone’s saying we haven’t played our best game yet in this series. We have to get as close to that as we can.’’
There are many routes to the Stanley Cup. Two years ago the Boston Bruins walked over hot coals en route to winning it all. They trailed 2-0 in two series and needed seven games to win three times, including the Finals. Last year, the Los Angeles Kings virtually breezed to the Cup, leading 3-0 in all four series.
The Hawks will settle for the same formula that worked in 2010 — tip-toeing early and imposing their will when necessary. Though they lost one potential clincher in Game 5 at home against Vancouver in the second round, they avoided Game 7s three times — twice clinching in Game 6 on the road, a pretty neat trick. And they dominated the only series they did not have home-ice advantage, sweeping San Jose in the conference finals.
Most of all, they improved every step of the way. ‘‘We’re hoping that’s nowhere near our best,’’ Toews said after the Hawks struggled past Nashville in the first round in 2010. And as it turned out it was not.
So even with control of this opening series, the Blackhawks — while officially taking them one game at a time and of course worried only about Game 6 against the Wild — are hoping they are just picking up steam for the long haul.
‘‘That sounds like a good idea, but we’ve had trouble getting out of the first round the past couple of years,’’ said Patrick Sharp, who has four goals in the series. ‘‘You hear a lot of people say that the first round is sometimes the toughest. You gotta credit Minnesota, the teams that we played the last couple of years — it feels like every shift you’re fighting for ice out there, you’re trying to get to the net and score goals.
‘‘I’ll agree with you and say that we can play better. I don’t think the first couple of games we can be satisfied with our intensity level, our sense of urgency. But we’re sitting here 3-1 with a great opportunity to win the series on home ice and I guess the idea is to get better as we go along.’’
The Hawks haven’t faced a lot of adversity this season. But their core players have proven they can handle it. And maybe the adversity they faced in Nashville in 2010, when they were seconds away from losing Game 5 at home and facing an elimination game in Nashville before winning in miraculous fashion in overtime, helped build the mental toughness — in a Tom Thibodeau kind of way — that carried them the rest of the way.
But they probably don’t want to take that chance. This team is older and its star players — with Toews, Sharp Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the way — have been here before. They can do without the drama.
‘‘You look at some teams that just battled their way into the playoffs,’’ Toews said. ‘‘They come right into [the postseason with momentum] and you see the pace, the physicality in lot of those series. We’re getting better one game at a time. But we need to just start bringing that now. We know that’s what it’s going to take to finish this series off.’’