Postseason elimination games are some of the most intense contests there are this time of year.
They’re frenzied, they’re pressure packed and they’re fun.
Wait: run that last one by us again?
“It's more fun to play these games than the normal games,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “When it's all on the line, I think that's what you want to play. You want to play at this time of year. You want to play elimination games [and] obviously come up on the winning side.”
All fun aside, the Blackhawks’ postseason is on the line when they host the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks are down 3-2 in this best-of-seven series, their late comeback coming up short in their 5-4 overtime loss in Game 5. The start was one of the Blackhawks’ most forgettable in quite some time. And if they start Game 6 even close to thatpoorly, they know they’ll be finished.
“We’ve got to play desperate right off the bat,” said Brandon Saad, who added the Blackhawks looked “like we were sleeping” to start Game 5. “Now we're in a situation where it's do or die: That's the team you're going to see. For some reason we started slow [Monday] and it was a big game for us. We need to steal one on the road. We didn't do it last night; we’ve got to do it in the future.”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here with the future talk. The Blackhawks still have to win tomorrow to earn another trip to Anaheim for Game 7. Obviously the elimination possibility isn’t new to the Blackhawks; they were down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings in 2013 and faced the same deficit against the Los Angeles Kings lastspring. They beat the Wings, lost to the Kings. The past lessons and experiences are there, but coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks don’t have to look back far for inspiration.
“We can talk about different things going into games, you can visit history, you can look at past games, big games, big moments. There's a lot of history here that we've collected over seven years, a lot of positive things,” he said. “[But] I think we allcame out of last night's game with anger and a real sour taste in our mouth. Sometimes that can be better than a history lesson.”
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The Blackhawks know what the stakes are and they’ll be trying to stave off elimination at the United Center, where they’ve lost just one game this postseason. It’ll be intense. It’ll be stressful. But apparently, that’s part of the fun.
“We all know tomorrow is a fun, huge game for us,” Hjalmarsson said. “We’re all going to bring our best, for sure. We definitely will have to do a better job.”
- Trevor van Riemsdyk has skated for several days now and will do so again with the Blackhawks on Wednesday morning. So will van Riemsdyk play in Game 6? “We'll see,” Quenneville said. “I look forward to talking to him. He skated [Tuesday]; we’ll see how he is.”
- Bryan Bickell’s attempted dump-in pass hit Jakob Silfverberg and started the play that led to the Ducks’ game-winning goal. Asked if the criticism on Bickel is fair, Quenneville said, “it's a play. We talk about getting the pucks behind them and in deep. I'm sure he feels bad. They had to make a couple plays after that to put it in the net.”
- Quenneville left the door open for possible Game 6 lineup changes. “We’ll see how everybody looks tomorrow,” he said.