Blackhawks

Olczyk: 'Mental game' will be Blackhawks' hardest challenge

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Olczyk: 'Mental game' will be Blackhawks' hardest challenge

It's pretty easy for the Blackhawks to get distracted in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night. 

It's the first time the Blackhawks have an opportunity to clinch the Stanley Cup on home ice since 1938. The Cup is in the building, which is why Eddie Olczyk believes the team's biggest challenge might be in their heads.

"It's hard not to look at what might happen if you win," said Olczyk on Kap and Haugh on Monday. "It's not hard to think about what's going to happen down the road if you win, and the psychological part for these players and coaches tonight will be the hardest thing that they'll have to deal with. I really believe that because of everything that's going around.

[MORE: A look at all NHL, Blackhawks jerseys during Stanley Cup wins]

"I don't care how much they've won, I don't care how much experience that they've had in winning two Cups in the last five years, the mental part of this game will be a great challenge."

The Lightning are here for a reason and they won't go away without a fight. With their backs against the wall, they're going to give it their all, and the Blackhawks have to be ready for that.

"Tampa isn't going anywhere," said Olczyk. "They're going to give them their best punch. ...It's going to be a great test."

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Regardless if you're a Blackhawks fan or Lightning fan, Game 6 should be one for the ages.

"I can't wait to get inside the building," said Olczyk, "because I think it's going to be as electric as we've ever seen a hockey game in anticipation for Game 6 tonight."

See what else Eddie O had to say on Kap and Haugh in the video above.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”