The Blackhawks got back to practice on Sunday after two days away from the rink.
It was good to get a few complete days off, to check out mentally from the game. It’s also been good to heal any nagging bumps and bruises they may have received in the first two rounds. Because come the Western Conference Final, the physical aspect is going to increase.
Whether the Blackhawks face the Calgary Flames or the Anaheim Ducks — the two square off Sunday night, with Anaheim up 3-1 in the second-round series — the Blackhawks are going to face a more bruising opponent than Nashville or Minnesota. So getting a few more days to rest, heal and refresh heading into the next round is very beneficial.
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“Calgary’s a hard-working team. That’s something they’ll try and bring. Same with Anaheim; they have a lot of big bodies, similar to LA last year,” Jonathan Toews said. “We can probably expect more physicality. Every series you see that rise, and it’s probably what we can expect in the next one.”
Now here’s the part that surprises us a bit: while the Ducks and the Flames usually play a more physical game than the Blackhawks, they’re not all that far apart this postseason. Entering Sunday night’s game, the Ducks have recorded 285 hits in eight games and Calgary’s landed 273 in 10 games. Chicago, which has also played 10 postseason games, has been credited with 282 hits.
Still, the two teams are more known for that physical style than the Blackhawks are. Not that it’s going to change the Blackhawks’ approach.
“No matter how you play them you’ve got to play the right way, you want to make sure you don't change the way you play. You’ve got awareness to what you want to do against them, but I don’t think you want to get distracted where you need to go to be successful,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think Anaheim, they've got a big team — they play hard, they play physical. Calgary plays maybe a little bit more up-tempo. But at the same time both teams can score and they put a lot of pressure on you. We’ll see what happens.”
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This is also just part of reaching this juncture of the postseason. Everything gets intensified, be it the level of play the emotions or the hits.
“You expect it to go up every round a little bit, the deeper you go,” Marcus Kruger said. “Both of those teams, they’re two good teams and physical. No matter who we play it’s going to be a tough series.”
The Blackhawks have gotten to this point in relatively good health — outside of the awful ankle injury to Michal Rozsival, of course. The Western Conference Finals will likely be their most physical test. This extended rest should prep them for it.
“We’ve played both those teams, good skating teams. Anaheim’s a physical team and Calgary’s got some players who are physical, too,” Duncan Keith said. “We’ve always been able to respond to those challenges, whether it’s physical or speed. We have to keep doing that.”