The regular-season games are dwindling, as are the Chicago Blackhawks’ chances to grab home-ice advantage in their likely first-round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.
Everyone looks for every advantage possible in the postseason, home ice certainly being one of those. But if the Blackhawks don’t get it, they’ll deal with it.
Entering Tuesday’s games the Blackhawks are two points behind the Avalanche, who play the Edmonton Oilers late Tuesday night. We’ll guess the Blackhawks will be watching what happens in that game. Whether or not the Blackhawks can grab home ice in the first round, however, the playoffs are coming. And the team will have to be ready no matter where they’re dropping the puck for Game 1.
“I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a worry for us,” Brandon Bollig said following Tuesday’s practice. “If we do end up playing Colorado in the first round and going into a building like that, it’s obviously tough to play there. But it’s nothing new to us and it won’t change the way we approach or play the game at all.”
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Quenneville didn’t want to get into the home-or-away talk quite yet.
“We’d certainly love home ice but we don’t want to get too far on commenting on not starting at home,” he said. “We’ll talk about that later.”
The road has its advantages. It’s less distracting and players usually use it for team-building work. Playing cards or games, hanging out, the Blackhawks have always enjoyed those aspects of travel.
“There’s nothing like hanging out with your buddies and teammates. It helps create chemistry on the ice,” said Andrew Shaw. “It’s always tough to go into someone else’s building and try to steal a win. But as a unit, our team has figured out how to get the most out of each other.”
The Blackhawks had home ice throughout the postseason in 2012-13, and they certainly know how advantageous it can be. Still, they’re no strangers to starting on the road, either. They did it against Vancouver in 2010-11, almost pulling off the Game 7 victory after going down 3-0 in the series. They did it against the Phoenix Coyotes the following season. But this is a stronger, deeper team than those two installments, who were still rebuilding off the 2010 Stanley Cup purge.
So if the road calls first, the Blackhawks are prepared.
“We want to play in front of our fans (to start); anyone would say that. But whatever happens here in the next few days happens, and we’ll prepare the way we always do and enjoy what we’re going through,” Ben Smith said. “It’s a fun time of year. Guys are excited and we’re just ready for these last few games. You get to the playoffs and try to make a run.”