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Even on cusp of series win, Blackhawks can reach another level

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Two

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Two

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at Hawks 2

Kings 1


at Hawks 4

Kings 2


at Kings 3

Hawks 1


Hawks 3

at Kings 2


7 p.m. Saturday
at Hawks, Ch. 5

GAME 6 if necessary

8 p.m. Monday
at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 7 if necessary

TBD Wednesday
at Hawks, NBCSN

Updated: July 9, 2013 6:22AM

Blackhawks coach Joel ­Quen­neville sold his decision to watch Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday like it was any other game earlier in the series.

But with a 3-1 stranglehold on the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, it must seem a little different, right?

“We’ve watched every game,” Quenneville said. “And we watch it very closely.”

Quenneville and Co. aren’t quite ready to talk about the Bruins or a bigger, grander series that could be in their future. As they always say in hockey, the Hawks are focusing on their next game — Game 5 on Saturday at the United Center.

“We put ourselves in a good spot for [Saturday],” Jonathan Toews said. “We’re looking forward to that.”

But the only way the Kings get out of their 3-1 series hole is if the Hawks let them.

It’s become more obvious that the Hawks only will be done in by themselves, that anything is possible if they do the right things to make it possible. That applies now and later if they do what everyone expects them to do and advance.

“We know we have to raise our level of play even more, so we’ll go forward with that mentality,” Toews said.

That’s the intriguing aspect about the Hawks. They’re one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final, and their play can reach another level. It’s not just locker-room speak, either. There are definite — and attainable — areas for improvement.

Start with their hapless power play, which continues to infuriate fans and baffle everyone. How can a team that struts out star after star after star be so uncreative and unsuccessful on the power play (14.3 percent in the postseason)?

Quenneville called the two-man advantage the Hawks had in
Game 4 “a disappointing miss” and said the Kings did a good job of taking away some set plays. Quenneville didn’t want to get into the technical details, but it can be argued that the Hawks’ power play is often filled with too many statues and passes and not enough movement and shots.

“The production is maybe not reflecting the zone time, the quality or the momentum you go into the power play with,” Quenneville said. “It’s been OK, but certainly we’d like something to show for it.”

Winger Patrick Kane played more like he can in Game 4, and more of that effort will be needed. And everyone is waiting for center Dave Bolland, the “Rat” of 2010, to come out.

“We progressively in these playoffs have gotten better and better as we’ve gone along,” Quenneville said. “I think that’s the character of our team.”

Most of the Hawks’ woes this postseason are self-inflicted. The series against the Detroit Red Wings is full of examples. They made goalie Jimmy Howard’s job way too easy at times, didn’t adjust fast enough to what the Red Wings were doing to neutralize their speed in the neutral zone and even lost their composure.

Against the Kings, the same is true, whether it’s defenseman Duncan Keith getting suspended, third-line grunt Andrew Shaw committing ill-timed penalties, Kane staying to the outside far too much and so on.

Maybe it’s just the ebb and flow of one team’s postseason, but there is still some untapped potential left for the Hawks.

If the Hawks manage to send the defending champs home in five games, it will be a testament of not only how far they’ve come this postseason, but of how far they are capable of going.

Then we can talk about the Bruins.

“Everybody is going to be aware that [Saturday] is going to be a heckuva battle,” Quenneville said. “Let’s go do what we have to do.”

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