Hawks infused with sense of urgency after Game 2 debacle
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org May 19, 2013 9:35PM
At Hawks 4
Red Wings 1
Red Wings 4
At Hawks 1
6:30 p.m. Monday
at Detroit, NBCSN
7 p.m. Thursday
at Detroit, NBCSN
7 p.m. Saturday
at Hawks, Ch. 5
GAME 6 if necessary
TBD Next Monday
GAME 7 if necessary
TBD May 29
Updated: May 20, 2013 12:15PM
The Blackhawks almost habitually respond well to adversity. Sometimes it seems like they’re never better than when they’re in a tough spot.
So maybe the Hawks have the Detroit Red Wings right where they want them, with their Western Conference semifinal series tied 1-1 after the Red Wings won 4-1 in Game 2 on Saturday at the United Center.
‘‘Losing home ice is a situation where it was one of those days where they were much better than we were,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said, ‘‘and we’ll have to be better and we knew that going into it. But that certainly got our attention.’’
Sometimes that’s all it takes for the Hawks to bring their ‘‘A’’ game. In the first round, the Hawks were battered by the Minnesota Wild in a Game 3 loss and responded by playing their best hockey of the series in Games 4 and 5 to close it out.
Now they’re in a slightly more precarious situation, needing to beat the rejuvenated Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena at least once to advance to the conference finals.
The thoroughness of the Red Wings’ victory has brought this series to an interesting juncture. The Hawks are still the best team on paper. Regaining control of the series could be as simple as raising their ‘‘compete level.’’ Or as Patrick Sharp put it, just playing better.
‘‘Playing our team game better,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘Doing some things that we want to do out there, dictate a little bit more. And just listen to our coaches. They put a game plan in. They have a feel and the pulse of our game and know what they want us to do. It’s up to us to execute.’’
But after the Game 2 loss, there’s something else to consider — that the Hawks might be in a little deeper than they think. The Red Wings are playing their best hockey at the right time. Mike Babcock is unlikely to be outcoached. Wings stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are unlikely to be ruffled, even by the gnatty Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw.
Opponents often bring their best against the Hawks, only to elicit a similar response and get buried by the Hawks’ overall excellence. Could the Hawks be on the other side of that equation this time? Sharp is confident, but wary.
‘‘I like my teammates,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘I like the team. There’s a lot of heart in our room that we can bounce back from [how] we played in Game 2.
‘‘It’s just a tough team we’re playing. The Wings are good. If anybody thought anyone was going to cruise through this series, they were wrong. Just look at the talent they have and how well they play their team game. We know it’s going to be a great series.’’
It might turn out that Sharp is wrong. But it’s tough to say after the way this series turned so suddenly. Every X-and-O explanation goes back to the same thing: ‘‘They just played harder than us. A lot harder,’’ Bolland said. ‘‘We’ve got to battle harder.’’
Asking how they turn that around is like asking why Orb finished fourth in the Preakness. Of all people, Quenneville knows how difficult it is to figure that out. All he knows is that he’s got a lot of horse.
‘‘I’m not too worried about [the Red Wings],’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We’ve got a lot of respect for what they’re capable of. And they just beat a very good Anaheim team, so we know how good they can be. We know we have to be better.’’