The Blackhawks were a tired but happy group on Tuesday night — make that Wednesday morning — taking a 3-2 triple-overtime victory over the Nashville Predators and a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
This series hasn’t been an easy one, for sure. Now comes the really difficult part: closing out the Predators for good.
“Always, the hardest game is to close out a team,” Brad Richards said. “Every day it’s the same: it’s the biggest game of the year and it’s going to be the toughest test of the year. As tough as last night was to win, it’s probably going to be a lot tougher tomorrow to win, especially in their building.”
The Predators will be like a cornered animal on Thursday night: they’re going to scratch, claw and do everything they can to keep this series going. As Richards said, the Blackhawks need to match that desperation because the last thing they want to do is give the Predators a second wind.
“You have to get better each game. You can’t think how you played the last game is going to be good enough to be successful the next one. That has to be our message,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Nashville’s played hard every single night, that’s how close it’s been. And we expect another battle right from the outset. We’ll need everyone and we’ll need our best.”
The Blackhawks are usually good at closing series out when they have the opportunity. With two contests going multiple overtimes, even getting to this point hasn’t been easy. The Predators have been without forward Mike Fisher for all four games and defenseman Shea Weber for the last two-plus contests, yet they’ve been right there. They’ll be desperate to keep this going. Jonathan Toews also said the Blackhawks need to match that emotion.
“We can try and find that desperation where we can put ourselves in their position, where these games are as important for us as they are for them, knowing that if we don’t find ways to finish this series off that it’s going to get tougher and tougher for us and more and more pressure will be on us as well,” he said. “Not that we want to add any pressure, but I just think we need to have that urgency that tomorrow needs to be our best game of the series.”
The Blackhawks don’t want this series going any longer than necessary. It’s already been lengthy, with Game 1 going double overtime and Game 3 triple overtime. They’ve got the chance to close. They want to capitalize on it.
“It’s going to be a tough game to play,” Duncan Keith said. “We know their crowd is going to be into it and they’re going to be pumped up to play in front of their crowd now. We’ve been in these situations before, going on the road and trying to close it out, and we’ll try to use that experience a little bit. At the same time, [it’s] just focusing on having a good start and then going one shift at a time like we’ve done throughout this series.”