The Blackhawks sat at Tuesday’s media session assessing their current situation, down a game to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Not great, for sure. But not new either.
“It's not necessarily a situation you want to be in. The fact [that] this group of players and this organization has been down that road a few times, has been able to persevere has been good for us,” Patrick Sharp said. “We're going to try to draw from that experience and play better games going forward.”
There’s a reason the Blackhawks are still confident heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final: they get better as series continue. In Games 4-7 during coach Joel Quenneville’s tenure here, the Blackhawks are 40-14. It’s a nice number, one that shows how much the Blackhawks get better as a series progresses. Since the 2013 postseason began they’ve trailed in four series, including the 2013 Cup final, when they were down 2-1 to the Boston Bruins. They only failed to come back in one of those four series – last spring against the Los Angeles Kings, who they trailed 3-1 before losing in Game 7.
“I think maybe it's part knowing what we're up against, part just us raising our game, getting better and better as the series go along,” Jonathan Toews said. “Obviously we don't draw it up in some situations when we get down in a series; it's not part of the plan. But I think we have confidence when we get in those situations that we can take it one game at a time, focus on the next game and continue to put pressure on the other team.”
The Blackhawks have strung together some good moments and some good periods against the Lightning. Their two goals in two minutes during Game 1 was a reminder of how quickly this team can turn the tables in its favor. They were dominant in the first period of Game 3, battering an injured Ben Bishop with 19 shots. The problem is, they haven’t been consistent. They’ve had miscues, they’ve allowed opposing goals not long after they’ve scored and they’ve trailed early in each of the first three games.
But they went down this road against Anaheim, who was blocking a ton of Blackhawks shots through the first few games. Then the Blackhawks broke through, got big contributions from top players – Toews led with four goals in the last three games – and upended the Ducks on visiting ice.
Maybe it’s a feeling-out process through those first few games sometimes. But the response has nonetheless been there late.
“We always want to start off the series good. I don't know, I just think it's a thing we have on our team: when the game is on the line, it matters more, we usually find a way to elevate our game a little bit,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Hopefully we can do the same thing here in the last couple games.”
The Blackhawks have starred in this movie before, the one that has that slow start, the buildup in the middle and the flourish at the end. Whether or not they manage the same script against the Lightning remains to be seen. The Blackhawks usually have an edge in how they’ve dealt with postseason pressure, but so far, the Lightning have done well in that department, too. Still, the Blackhawks have the confidence they can find a way as a series continues. They’ve got the great record to show for it, too.
“The guys in the room, we want to be out there and win. We want to be out there in those situations and play in big games,” Brent Seabrook said. “For whatever reason, I think we play our best games when our backs are up against the wall.”
- Coach Joel Quenneville said Johnny Oduya, who missed some time with an upper-body injury in Game 3, “looked all right today. We'll see how he is tomorrow.”
- Trevor van Riemsdyk had a solid outing in his first NHL game since November. Said Niklas Hjalmarsson, “he made some really, really nice plays and showed patience and calmness with the puck. To just come in like that in the Stanley Cup Finals, play the way he did, was nothing else than impressive.”
- Quenneville said, “we’ll see” when asked if the Blackhawks will have any lineup changes in Game 4.