Jonathan Toews is one of several Blackhawks making his third Stanley Cup Final appearance. He’s played in many postseason games.
Considering how many lengthy playoff runs the Blackhawks have had, the grind it takes to get here, the shine wears off a little, doesn’t it? Well, no, actually.
“I think last night for me was one of the toughest nights to get to sleep because of the excitement,” Toews said with a smile on his face. “I’m sure a lot of the guys share that same feeling.”
Indeed, they do.
There’s something about this time of the postseason, whether it’s your first time going to the Final or your third time: you’re like a kid, brimming with anticipation, excitement and perhaps some sleeplessness. The feelings never get old and the Blackhawks, who will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 on Wednesday night, are experiencing them again.
“Not that I can’t believe we’re here, but there [was] definitely excitement after the Game 7," Patrick Sharp said. "It was tough to kind of relax on the plane and get to sleep when I got home. I remember the first time in 2010; we were close to winning, and there wasn’t a whole lot of pregame naps going on. It wasn’t great sleep at nighttime. It was so much excitement. I think the more times you go through it, the more relaxed you can get. But having said that, the excitement and energy is still there.”
The Blackhawks enter this Final much like they did the other two: they have an idea of what the Lightning will bring but they’re not as familiar with Tampa as they are their usual Western Conference foes. It will be a challenge, for sure; some are comparing the current Lightning to the Blackhawks of a few years ago. And while the Blackhawks-Anaheim Ducks matchup was a physical series, this will certainly be a speedy series.
“They definitely have a lot of speed, you’re right on that; a lot of skill, too,” Duncan Keith said. “They have forwards who have real good hockey sense. They’re in the final for a reason. We’ve said it before: it’s going to be a tough challenge. They’re a young team that’s going to be excited. We’re excited to have the challenge as well.”
There’s just something special about the playoffs in general, but especially about the Stanley Cup Final. A big reason for that is it’s so hard to get to this point once, let alone three times. The Blackhawks aren’t talking about their potential place in history yet; there’s too much hockey left to be played and, as Patrick Kane said after Game 7, “we haven’t done anything yet.” The anticipation will be there, though. So, perhaps, will be a few sleepless moments.
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“I love it. It’s what we dream about, what it’s all about, as a player or coach, is getting to this situation,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The best part about winning a Cup is the road [you take] to try and win it. You get to this stage, we put ourselves in a good spot, let’s get excited.”
- Quenneville said Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are fine and will play in Game 1 on Wednesday. Bickell didn’t play from the early second period on in the Blackhawks’ Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Asked if Bickell was hurt or just not playing well, Quenneville said, “we’ll say it was my decision but we’ll say a little bit of both.”
- Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk will travel with the Blackhawks and is expected to practice with on Tuesday. Quenneville said the team will gauge where van Riemsdyk is following practice. He added that he’ll keep all options open regarding the fifth and sixth defensemen spots.