Blackhawks hope to carry momentum into Game 3
CHICAGO -- After another final-second, game-tying goal -- this one followed by an overtime victory -- the Chicago Blackhawks hope to carry that momentum into Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series on Tuesday.
"Momentum is important in the playoffs, and we want to make sure we take care of it, so let's take advantage," coach Joel Quenneville said after the Hawks practiced Monday, one day before hosting the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 3 at the United Center. "They are a good road team. They've played us well here. They're a dangerous opponent. We have to take advantage of the building, of the crowd, but let's be sure we're not looking to outscore this team. We have to have patience to be effective against them."
The Coyotes beat the Hawks in their last three regular-season meetings, including both games at the United Center, and then in Game 1 of the playoffs. It's not as if they'll fold just because the Hawks, after forcing a tie in the final 15 seconds for a second straight game, won Game 2 in OT to square the series.
The Hawks proved they wouldn't fold, either, as much by Bryan Bickell scoring in overtime as by Patrick Sharp tipping Brent Seabrook's shot past Coyotes goalie Mike Smith with 5.5 seconds left in regulation.
The Blackhawks knew a second overtime loss would have been deflating.
"'Never give up' is a big part of us," forward Andrew Brunette said. "It shows a lot of character in this room, doing it with 14 and five seconds left in two games."
Now the venue shifts to United Center -- and those first few shifts Tuesday, played in a cacophony of noise that almost rivals old Chicago Stadium, could throw anyone off their game.
"It's playoff hockey in Chicago," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We all know what kind of energy is going to be in that building [Tuesday].”
The goal for the Hawks is to draw from that energy, and to do that they know they have to do all the little things right. The Hawks believe they did that, for the most part, in Phoenix.
"We got lots of pucks at their goalie, traffic, and that's a good thing," forward Marian Hossa said. "That's what we have to do, because [Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith] is so good when he sees the puck. We have to make sure we have traffic. He has such a good glove. We tried to put it at his feet. When you do, there are rebounds."
Rebounds cause havoc, especially when a team drives to the net. The Hawks were inconsistent at that during the regular season, but visited Smith's crease early and often in the two games in Glendale. The Hawks scored the first goal in both games, but each time the Coyotes answered -- and then carried the play in the two second periods.
"We gave up too many chances there," Toews said of the middle period in Game 1. "The last one, the same thing. We gave up that momentum, that control we had at the start of the game. I think that energy from our own building will push us to not make that mistake again."
Penalty killing was Chicago's Achilles heel during the regular season, and the two power-play goals scored by Phoenix in Game 2 -- the second, by Antoine Vermette, while Andrew Shaw was sitting in the penalty box serving a charging major for his shoulder-to-head on Smith behind the Phoenix net -- exposed a weak point. How to fix that between Saturday and Tuesday is the hard part.
The best way is to just stay out of the penalty box, which would give more time to the reconstituted line of Brunette, Patrick Kane and Hossa. Quenneville put them back together during Game 2, and they skated together Monday. Kane, who has been shifted back and forth from center to the wing, is fine with being back in the middle.
"We know where each other are, have a little bit of confidence, obviously," Kane said. "We've had some success in the past. We've played pretty well together, so I hope there's more of the same coming up here."
Quenneville likes it in part because Kane, who has shown he can hold his own defensively, touches the puck that much more, and that's one less thing for him to worry about. At playoff time, that's a blessing.
Author: Tim Cronin | NHL.com Correspondent