Jonathan Toews had a quizzical grin on his face as the inevitable questions came. Where’s the confidence level? How down are the Chicago Blackhawks?
“What’s there to be down about?” he said following the Blackhawks’ optional practice on Friday. “Obviously we’re not where we want to be in the series but feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t going to do anything. We have a positive group of guys. We’ve had a great season all year for that reason. We’re going to stick to what helps us win hockey gams, going to focus on tomorrow night, and that’s it.”
The focus is on tomorrow night because, if it isn’t, there’s no other night to focus on. The Blackhawks will try to stave off elimination when they host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Saturday night. Down 3-1 in the series, the Blackhawks have been stymied by the Red Wings’ defense and their hot goaltender, have struggled on the power play, and have probably wondered what they did to anger the hockey gods with the many posts and crossbars they’ve hit.
But Toews said the Blackhawks are still confident they can get back into this series, and he said it’s up to the team’s leaders, himself included, to lead the charge.
“Our best players need to be our best,” he said. “We need to lead, grab the rope and start pulling for the rest of the guys, and that starts with me.”
The Blackhawks’ top guys have continued to struggle in this series, in which the team has just two goals in their last three games. The Blackhawks had a team meeting before the optional today, where they talked about what’s already happened and what they need to do to keep their season alive.
“Momentum: we talk about how important it is come playoff time. One game can turn everything around,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s what we’re looking for. The big picture looks bleak but we have two home games here; one at a time. Getting off to a big start is what we’re looking for.”
The start is going to be very important for the Blackhawks. If they get off to a good one – and by that, we mean they finally get something past Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard – then they could start getting that confidence back. If Howard starts denying them right off the bat tomorrow, it could be the end.
The odds don’t favor the Blackhawks here. Teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series about eight percent of the time. The Blackhawks almost came back from a 3-0 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks two springs ago, losing to them in a Game 7 overtime. They’ll keep that memory in the front of their minds when the puck drops tomorrow night.
“It just goes to show that things like that are possible,” Toews said. “We were very close to winning that series. I’m sure Detroit knows and we know this series is long from being over. Tomorrow’s going to be the toughest game for both. We’ll keep that (thought) in our hip pocket.”
A lot will have to change for this comeback to happen. Stars have to start clicking, as does the power play. Those pipe-clanging shots have to go in instead of ricocheting out. The Blackhawks say they just need to get a break, take advantage of their chances. Tomorrow could be their last one.
“We’re as upbeat as we can be; we’re just trying to focus on tomorrow’s game,” said Brent Seabrook. “We talked about past experiences and what we can do as a group and we have to come out with a strong effort tomorrow. This is what we play for: the Cup. It’s the best time of the year. Our season’s not over yet.”