The heat on the Chicago Blackhawks is tremendous.
The No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks were Presidents’ Trophy winners going away. Expectations on them to go far in these playoffs are enormous. So you’d expect them to play Game 5 like they had the world on their shoulders, right?
“As far as pressure entering yesterday, there was no pressure,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was just up to us to play. That’s how we have to keep going.”
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The Blackhawks played a must-win game much like they did a lot of their games this past regular season: loose, confident and with all four lines and three defensive pairs rolling. It yielded great results, and kept them from elimination for at least one more game. But tomorrow night it’s Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena with the Blackhawks still down 3-2 in the Western Conference semifinal series. They don’t need to be reminded of how disappointing it’ll be if they are eliminated by the Red Wings. But that stressful thought didn’t look foremost on their minds in Game 5.
“I think we were just relaxed,” Bryan Bickell said. “We had nothing to lose and we just went out and played hockey. Guys during the game just said ‘work hard for each other. Have fun.’ It worked for us.”
Everything worked for them on Saturday, from the power play to the across-the-board consistency to Jonathan Toews scoring. But things will be different tomorrow night. It’s back to Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings have already beaten the Blackhawks twice this series and where they’ll have the final line change. But the Blackhawks say they need to take the same approach in Detroit as they did at the United Center.
“We’ve got to do what we did last night: play hard, compete and work for each other. We just have to push each other offensively and defensively,” Andrew Shaw said. “Detroit (is) a great team and they play great in their barn. We have to counter that, push back and stick together as a team.”
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“They have their backs to the wall now. I know it’s hard to get the win to clinch the series, and the pressure’s on them to do it,” he said. “But it’s going to be tough on us, too. That do-or-die attitude we need is important, just to keep this going.”
The Blackhawks do have plenty of performance pressure on them. They just played like they didn’t, played like the Wings had more pressure to close out than they did to stay alive. And if that’s what works for them, so be it.
“Sure, if we win the next game they’re going to have pressure that they couldn’t close it out,” Duncan Keith said. “You can look at it a lot of different ways. At the end of the day, we’re trying to win and so are they.”