MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Heading into Game 3, Jonathan Toews said the Blackhawks had to be, um, ticked off and play accordingly. They did, at least for the start of the game.
The Blackhawks seem to be taking the same type of mantra into Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings: Stop, um, screwing around.
“It’s time to bring it. It’s time to play our best hockey. No more waiting,” Toews said following the Blackhawks’ practice on Sunday. “Everyone knows and understands we can bring more. We know how good a team we’re up against and what it’s going to take to beat them. We can be positive about a lot of things and remind ourselves what we’re capable of as a team and where we’ve been before, considering this situation in the series. So let’s go play a great game for each other tomorrow, it’s a great opportunity for us.”
The Blackhawks’ opportunity is to wrest home-ice advantage back, to bring the Western Conference Final series back to Chicago knotted, 2-2, and to remind the Kings that the defending Stanley Cup champions aren’t ready to go quietly.
“The Kings are a great team, just like Boston, Detroit, St. Louis and Minnesota were. We've seen ourselves in this situation before,” Patrick Sharp said. “We're most concerned with what we can control, that's our locker room, that's our system, that's our individual play. If we do that, I like to think we'll take care of business on the ice.”
Speaking of on-ice happenings, the Blackhawks weren’t tipping their hand regarding lines on Sunday afternoon. They didn’t run any, focusing instead on the special teams that have hurt them the past few games. Asked if he’ll be running the same 12 forwards in Game 4 as in Game 3, coach Joel Quenneville said, “We’ll see.” It won’t be surprising to see changes; several Blackhawks were struggling noticeably on both sides of the ice. Regardless, however, the Blackhawks are looking for that elusive 60-minute game again.
And if drawing on past experiences, including those in which they trailed, helps, so be it.
“We’ve had a good track record of coming back in series, so hopefully history can repeat itself and we can do it again,” Patick Kane said. “It’s not going to be easy. L.A.’s playing pretty well, and we know if (the Kings) have momentum, they’re maybe the best team in the league and have been the best team in the playoffs when they do have momentum. We have to try to get it back from them and sustain it.”
It’s nice to draw on the past for motivation. But to rework a familiar Quenneville quote, every situation is different. The Kings have been getting the contributions up and down the lineup that have suddenly eluded the Blackhawks. They’ve been strong on both sides of special teams. The Blackhawks have their work cut out for them, but they love them a good challenge. Now they have to respond to it.
“This series is far from over,” Toews said. “I guess it’s a fact that we’ve been able to get out of this position before. That only helps you and your confidence, mentally. I think we just want to go win tomorrow. We’re not focused on anything else. That’s our No. 1 task right now. We’ll go into tomorrow’s game planning on winning and go from there.”