Airing grievances. Letting it out. Breaking it down. Motivating everyone.
A good talk can lead to good things. The Chicago Blackhawks have found that out a few times during their series against the Detroit Red Wings, once before Game 5 and again during Game 6. And while that’s certainly not the only reason why they’ve tied the Wings 3-3 in this Western Conference semifinal series, it didn’t hurt them.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings will play that ultimate elimination game on Wednesday night, Game 7 at the United Center to decide who advances to the Western Conference finals. It wasn’t looking like that last Thursday when the Blackhawks hit their rock bottom of the series, a 2-0 Game 4 loss that marked their first three-game losing streak and first shutout of this regular or postseason.
It was a demoralizing day, one that pushed the Blackhawks to the brink. So before they took to the ice for practice last Friday, they talked.
“We had a great talk here after Game 4, and I think the last two games we’ve been playing the way we want to play,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We have a great group of guys in here.”
The Blackhawks started chatting again in Game 6’s second intermission on Monday night. Down 2-1, a few players gave what Bryan Bickell called “pump-up speeches.” Bickell said Duncan Keith was among them. Keith didn’t want to disclose what was said -– “Things said in the room stay in the room. That’s how we’ve always been as a team.’’ But there’s no doubt it was motivating.
The Blackhawks stopped lamenting the missed opportunities, the hit crossbars and posts and the denied goal and worked on getting their game back to its regular-season consistency. And, of course, they stayed optimistic that the bad-luck moments would turn in their favor.
“To look at the attitude we’ve had over the last couple of games to where we were a few days ago, it’s a huge credit to the guys for keeping their heads up and keeping positive,” Jonathan Toews said. “We felt like we worked hard but nothing went our way those first three or four games. It‘s easy to get down on yourself but we didn’t do that at all. We kept the good feeling knowing if we win we’ll survive. We feel good about where we are. We have the momentum, and we want to hang onto it for one more game.”
Still, be it Friday’s talk or last night’s, it was up to the Blackhawks to turn the locker-room talk to on-ice results. As Michal Handzus said after Game 6, “You can talk but you have to do it on the ice. That’s what this team did.”
They have to do it one more time.