Blackhawks focused on starting next Cup chase
|Winning a Stanley Cup never gets old, but Duncan Keith insists he and his teammates are ready to make new news now.|
CHICAGO -- As thrilled as Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith is to have another gaudy, weighty, diamond-crusted Stanley Cup championship ring, it's still just an expensive piece of jewelry that represents what he calls "old news now."
"I don't care anymore about what happened last year," Keith told NHL.com. "We've moved on. We're happy to get rings and banners, that's the goal and we want to do it more. We haven't done anything this year. It starts Tuesday."
That's when the Washington Capitals come to town for an opening-night game (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) that will have all the bells and whistles any championship team deserves, including a gala red carpet event outside United Center on Madison Avenue.
The key for the Blackhawks is to turn the festivities into nothing more than white noise because they know what can happen to teams that aren't able to flip the switch to the next season. They were part of it last season, when they went into Staples Center, watched the Los Angeles Kings' banner-raising ceremony and then took advantage of the home team's slow start en route to a 5-2 win.
Chicago was on the wrong end of it in 2010. The Detroit Red Wings came into United Center, watched the banner go up and then beat the Blackhawks, 3-2.
Of the past five Stanley Cup champions, only the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 won their home opener in the following season.
"So many teams are losing their home opener because they get caught in the moment," right wing Marian Hossa told NHL.com. "I guess it's human nature, you're caught in the moment and you start the game slow. You always try to say that after that you have to focus on the game, but those first couple of minutes you're still caught. But it's the first game and it's time to close the book, focus on the new year."
The need for that type of focus was addressed by coach Joel Quenneville on Monday.
"Something we were talking about is I felt the start of our season last year put us in a perfect spot for the whole season," Quenneville said, referencing Chicago's streak of 24 straight games with at least a point to open last season. "It was that first period of that first win and it started off on the right foot. Something we're trying to prioritize going into this season is there are a lot of things you can achieve, but let's worry about getting off to a great start. That's our focus.
"[Tuesday] night, all the distractions, all the fanfare and the event, enjoy it but let's go," he continued. "Easier said than done, but I have to commend the guys' focus and preparation coming into this camp, and we'd expect the same type of professionalism [Tuesday] night."
Quenneville mentioned that last part twice during his eight-minute press conference Monday. He hasn't seen any complacency in his team and sees no reason for them to go through the proverbial Stanley Cup hangover that has plagued so many championship teams, including the 2010-11 Blackhawks, who barely made the Stanley Cup Playoffs the following season.
"The guys really had the right attitude coming into this year's camp," Quenneville said. "Whether it's the finality to having the Cup, the Cup being around, having the ring and the banner, all great moments to reflect back on a special year, but I feel this group, they're ready for the next challenge. We're expecting a lot from them right off the start here."
Quenneville and crew aren't alone.
The Blackhawks are the niche pick to win the Stanley Cup, to become the first team to repeat as champions in 15 years. The hype is omnipresent around the Windy City, with signs and banners welcoming the Blackhawks back, celebrating their championship team.
The fans will be out on the street to greet the players Tuesday afternoon, and full-throated from the banner-raising ceremony through the national anthem and the opening faceoff Tuesday night.
The old news Keith talked about will still feel fresh because winning never gets old, but the Blackhawks insist they're ready to make new news now.
They insist they've moved on to trying to reach their next goal.
"You have to try to prove you're still the best," Hossa said. "That's the approach."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer