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Jonathan Toews: Western final needs to be an improving ground for Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) waits for puck drop during face-off against MinnesotWild during second period Game 3 an

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) waits for the puck to drop during a face-off against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt) ORG XMIT: OTKAH104

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Confererence Final


Game 1: 2 p.m. Sunday at Hawks, NBC

Game 2: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hawks, NBCSN

Game 3: 7 p.m. next Saturday at Kings, NBC

Game 4: 8 p.m. May 26
at Kings, NBCSN

*Game 5: 7 p.m. May 28
at Hawks, NBCSN

*Game 6: 8 p.m. May 30 at Kings, NBCSN

*Game 7: 7 p.m. June 1 at Hawks, NBCSN

* If necessary

Updated: June 18, 2014 6:17AM

Whether they struggled against the Minnesota Wild because the Wild were better than anybody thought or they were merely pacing themselves against a lower-seeded opponent, the Blackhawks hope there’s another level of performance they can reach in the Western Conference final.

“There has to be,” captain Jonathan Toews said Friday at the United Center. “You improve as a series goes along, and you have to get better and better as the playoffs go along. We have to be better than we’ve been in the first two rounds if we want to keep going all the way.”

In their two previous runs to the Stanley Cup in 2010 and last year, the Hawks improved significantly in the Western Conference final. In 2010, they swept the San Jose Sharks 4-0. In ’13, they beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1.

Eye on the prize

Goaltender Corey Crawford admitted he at least thought about the possibility that the Hawks could face his hometown Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It’s maybe snuck in a little bit,” he said. “I try to catch myself, not to think about that too much. That’s where you can get in trouble — having your mind in a different spot than where it’s supposed to be. Right now, it’s on Game 1 of the next series.”

Mental break

By beating the Wild in six games, the Hawks had four days between series — a pretty good break in the middle of a grueling road to the Stanley Cup.

“It’s nice to get a little rest,” Crawford said, “and have some days where you can rest mentally, too, and not think about it too much.”

Advantage, Hawks?

With their second-round series victory over the Wild, the Hawks are 3-0 against teams coming off seven-game series. They beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 and the Kings 4-1 last year.

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