The typically short Blackhawks practices were longer – and by longer we still mean only about 45-50 minutes, because coach Joel Quenneville has never been a lengthy practice guy.
Still, there were scrimmages and there were battle drills along the boards, things usually reserved for when the Blackhawks are going through a losing streak or Quenneville’s trying to stoke their fire. But now, they’re needed for a team looking to stay sharp.
With the long layoff between their second-round wrap-up and the Western Conference Final, which begin Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks are doing everything they can to do the impossible: simulate a game with practices.
“It’s one of those things you can’t do,” Andrew Shaw said. “A game is totally different, pace is always faster, more physical. [Do a] couple battle drills, some quick scrimmages to get the pace going, keep the legs fresh.”
Nevertheless, you do what you have to do when you have this much time to kill between games. When the Blackhawks finally face the Ducks on Sunday, they will have had nine days between games. The Blackhawks took several days off in this time but the past few days they amped up the practices to prepare for the next round.
“I thought the last two days we had great practices; much better pacing, good energy,” Quenneville said. “There’s a lot of days in between but that’s the way it is. We’re trying to get ourselves where we’re competing at a different level here.”
So you mix up practices and throw in a few drills you normally don’t do. Even though they haven’t had a postseason break like this in the past the Blackhawks know what to do this time of year: stay sharp but don’t get overzealous out there.
[NBC SHOP: Get the latest Blackhawks gear here]
“You want to have a good mix of competitive drills but you also want to be safe out there and make sure you’re not injuring your teammates or yourself,” Patrick Sharp said. “This time of year we’re all professionals, we know what it takes to get ourselves ready to play. Our coach has done a good job of preparing us but at the same time we’re pros and hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”
You can’t do much about the schedule. Between the Eastern Conference’s second round lasting longer than the West’s – the Ducks eliminated the Calgary Flames in five games – and other arena obligations, the Blackhawks and Ducks just have to deal with the extended break. Hockey will resume again for them soon enough. The Blackhawks did their best to stay sharp for when it does.
“We like those type of practices, especially having so many,” Shaw said. “We’re anxious to play and know we’ll come out here and give everything we’ve got for 40 minutes and stay fresh mentally and physically.”