Sunday, June 6, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO With the momentum of the Stanley Cup Finals having swung completely to the side of the Philadelphia Flyers, is there anything that can comfort the Chicago Blackhawks?
Theres a lot to hearten the team, actually, as the Redshirts reflected during Sundays morning skate and postgame media session.
Every Blackhawk was smiling on the ice. Forward Dustin Byfuglien chirped throughout drills, goaltender Antti Niemi reacted demonstratively toward scores in two-on-one drills at the end of practice, and the chorus of shooters during the drill was loud with cheers and boos for goals and misses.
Hey, one Blackhawk even demonstrated the good sense to chuck a puck 20 rows up in the direction of unpopular anti-Hawks analyst Pierre McGuire.
All year, if you watch us in practice, there are a lot of smiles out there, Chicago winger Patrick Kane said. It shouldnt be any different now.
It wasnt all just grins and giggles on the ice, however. Coach Joel Quenneville kept prospective line changes (including the possibilities of Kane and Jonathan Toews being split up on the top line, Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer flipping spots and Colin Fraser, Adam Burish, or Jordan Hendry being reintroduced to the lineup) well obscured, beginning drills with his standard Finals lines and mixing it up randomly as the skate went on.
Brouwer admitted afterward that the team hadnt been told anything regarding possible line changes for Game 5. Andrew Ladd and Duncan Keith didnt skate, but both are expected to be in the lineup for Game 5.
Kane and his teammates didnt feel that a lineup shuffle would harm the Hawks in any way. Weve all played with different people all year, Crazy 88 said. Splitting up me and Jonny Toews gives Philadelphia more to have to pick and choose from on defense.
As for the pressure the club was supposed to be feeling, it wasnt evident on the faces of the Hometown Heroes.
Theres only as much pressure on us as we want to put on ourselves, Brouwer said. This is a big swing game. Theres no room for nerves.
The Flyers probably feel they have pressure on themselves, too, said Kane, who was at his most subdued in this pregame media session.
Meanwhile, a defensive leader and a slice-and-dice winger kept the circumstances in the proper perspective.
Were in a great situation, defenseman Brian Campbell said. Were playing hockey in June. Its a lot of fun. The veteran they call Soupy also rather charmingly offered a betrayal of how immersed hes been in hockey by pegging todays date as June 4.
If you would have told us before the season that wed be in the Stanley Cup Finals and tied 2-2 with two games still to play at home, we would have been pretty happy with that, Kane said.
And if theres no comfort in the words of the Hometown Heroes, how about a factoid that is undeniably heartening if youre a Blackhawks rooter: In the history of best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals, teams winning Games 1 and 2 at home as the Hawks did and losing Games 3 and 4 again, Chicago did this are 9-0 in Game 5.