DENVER – The Blackhawks had been going at a furious clip when they lost two straight games to end last week. They needed a rest, there was no doubt about that, so they took two days completely off. No rink, no skating, no hockey.
Two games past that break, the Blackhawks say the rest did them good.
The Blackhawks have looked more like themselves in their last two games and players said taking Monday and Tuesday completely off was very helpful. But it wasn’t their bodies, necessarily, that benefitted most.
“You’re more mentally refreshed when you get two days off,” Duncan Keith said. “Once you get back into games, play another game, you’re tired afterward. But more than anything, it was good mentally to take a couple days and regroup and reset everything.”
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Captain Jonathan Toews agreed.
“More than anything, it was good mentally to get away from the rink for two days and recharge our bodies,” he said. “Now we’re back to the road, having fun together and we’ve had two good games this week. We’re looking to just play better than we did (last time) here in Denver.”
Yes, the Blackhawks are back in Denver, where the Colorado Avalanche ended their 24-game undefeated streak with a thud on March 8. The team was starting to run on empty heading into that game, and they had the first of two consecutive tough performances – they came back against Edmonton at home two days later, but trailed 4-0 after one. So when the week began and the Blackhawks got their first three-day gap between games this season, it was an easy decision for coach Joel Quenneville: just stay off the ice those first two days.
The Blackhawks rested their bumps and bruises, their legs and lungs. They also settled their heads.
“It was nice to have a little time off to get away from the rink and let the streak settle in,” Patrick Kane said. “Everyone knew at some point we were going to lose. And it wasn’t a good feeling, especially losing two in a row. So it was nice to have time off and regroup.”
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The effects, mentally and physically, were evident when they returned. Gone were the glaring mistakes in those two losses. Back was the strong defensive game, the solid goaltending and the four lines rolling. The rejuvenation was there in Columbus in a 2-1 shootout victory Thursday, and it was definitely prevalent in the Blackhawks’ 8-1 drubbing of Dallas last night.
“I don’t think you can get a busier stretch than seven (games) in 11 days. Getting re-energized (was key),” Quenneville said. “We had a big response the last two games. We’ll recognize when they need a break. As we go along here, if we get a chance to have them stay away, we’ll do that.”
The Blackhawks have practiced in between their last two games, albeit briefly. It’s been about 30 minutes each day, just enough to loosen up. That break earlier this week doesn’t guarantee that the Blackhawks have a victorious outing against the Avalanche tomorrow night. But it does mean they’ll probably play closer to how they did in their 24-game unbeaten streak, rather than the two games that followed it.
“We’re on track,” Marian Hossa said. “We were not going to win all the games; somebody was going to beat us. But we felt like after two days (off) we’d find he energy again.”