Experienced Blackhawks know how to respond after setbacks
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter May 7, 2014 10:12PM
Updated: June 10, 2014 6:34AM
After an almost perfunctory Game 3 loss on the road Tuesday night, the questions that weren’t asked of the Blackhawks on Wednesday were as significant as the ones that were.
Nobody wanted to know if “this is a series again.” Or if the Minnesota Wild had the Hawks’ number — if coach Mike Yeo had found the antidote for the Hawks’ offensive attack that nobody else could find. Nobody wants to know if the Hawks are on tilt after a 4-0 loss at Xcel Energy Center.
We know by now they are not. With all due respect to the Wild, the Hawks have been here so many times, it’s as if they know what’s coming next. When you’ve overcome hurdles much higher than one playoff road loss to win Stanley Cups, it’s hard to blame them.
“I think we’re happy where we’re at,” winger Patrick Kane said. “Obviously, it’s never fun losing a game. But it’s going to happen, especially in the playoffs.”
The Hawks easily turned the page of a postseason script that is looking like a Broadway play they can perform in their sleep. The Hawks predictably rose to the challenge against the St. Louis Blues in the opening round — making one game-deciding play after another in winning four in a row after losing the first two games in overtime.
They paid due respect to an upstart second-round foe (“We’re not taking them lightly, if that’s what you’re asking,” winger Patrick Sharp said before the series began). They predictably won two home games against the Wild by waiting until the third period to put the hammer down. And just when it looked like the Hawks might have reached a new level and were ready to avoid the dreaded first-road-game loss, they — predictably — let the Wild drag them down to their level in textbook fashion and lost 4-0.
Cue the “wake-up call” quote.
“If anything, it’s a wake-up call for us,” Kane said. “Winning six games in a row, maybe we were a little overconfident. Minnesota did a good job of making it a series Tuesday night.”
The Hawks know they’re in a fight against a team that won’t go away.
“They’re better in every area,” defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “It’s not going to be the same series it was last year. I think everybody knows that.”
But the Hawks also know that they are the Blackhawks, a team that has responded to the urgency of the moment in winning Stanley Cups in 2010 and 2013. Nothing that has happened in this postseason has disproved that.
“We haven’t played our best game in this series yet,’’ Kane said. ‘‘Hopefully, it’s coming sooner rather than later. But you see a stat — we’ve lost nine in a row [in] our first road game in a series. It’s not a fun stat.
“But it’s a tough league. From one to eight in the playoffs, any team can be beaten — and we just came off a six-game winning streak in the playoffs, which is pretty impressive in itself.”
As the Hawks know all too well, they indeed have lost the first road game of a playoff series nine consecutive times — and 10 times in 12 games since 2010. What they might not know is that they’re 15-5 on the road after that first game. In other words, they get better. It’s just a matter of urgency.
“The urgency is there now,” Oduya said. “We’ve seen how [the Wild] can play and how they battled to win games. That’s something we have to have, too. It was a little bit of a wake-up call, but not really. We knew this is the way they play. We saw it [when] they outbattled the Colorado Avalanche a lot.
‘‘We have to play better — that’s the bottom line.”