Stanley Cup Final feeling never gets old for Blackhawks


Stanley Cup Final feeling never gets old for Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews is one of several Blackhawks making his third Stanley Cup Final appearance. He’s played in many postseason games.

Considering how many lengthy playoff runs the Blackhawks have had, the grind it takes to get here, the shine wears off a little, doesn’t it? Well, no, actually.

“I think last night for me was one of the toughest nights to get to sleep because of the excitement,” Toews said with a smile on his face. “I’m sure a lot of the guys share that same feeling.”

[MORE HAWKS: Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks]

Indeed, they do.

There’s something about this time of the postseason, whether it’s your first time going to the Final or your third time: you’re like a kid, brimming with anticipation, excitement and perhaps some sleeplessness. The feelings never get old and the Blackhawks, who will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 on Wednesday night, are experiencing them again.

“Not that I can’t believe we’re here, but there [was] definitely excitement after the Game 7," Patrick Sharp said. "It was tough to kind of relax on the plane and get to sleep when I got home. I remember the first time in 2010; we were close to winning, and there wasn’t a whole lot of pregame naps going on. It wasn’t great sleep at nighttime. It was so much excitement. I think the more times you go through it, the more relaxed you can get. But having said that, the excitement and energy is still there.”

[MORE HAWKS: Lightning ticket policy attempting to block Blackhawks fans out]

The Blackhawks enter this Final much like they did the other two: they have an idea of what the Lightning will bring but they’re not as familiar with Tampa as they are their usual Western Conference foes. It will be a challenge, for sure; some are comparing the current Lightning to the Blackhawks of a few years ago. And while the Blackhawks-Anaheim Ducks matchup was a physical series, this will certainly be a speedy series.

“They definitely have a lot of speed, you’re right on that; a lot of skill, too,” Duncan Keith said. “They have forwards who have real good hockey sense. They’re in the final for a reason. We’ve said it before: it’s going to be a tough challenge. They’re a young team that’s going to be excited. We’re excited to have the challenge as well.”

There’s just something special about the playoffs in general, but especially about the Stanley Cup Final. A big reason for that is it’s so hard to get to this point once, let alone three times. The Blackhawks aren’t talking about their potential place in history yet; there’s too much hockey left to be played and, as Patrick Kane said after Game 7, “we haven’t done anything yet.” The anticipation will be there, though. So, perhaps, will be a few sleepless moments.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Western Conference Champs gear here]

“I love it. It’s what we dream about, what it’s all about, as a player or coach, is getting to this situation,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The best part about winning a Cup is the road [you take] to try and win it. You get to this stage, we put ourselves in a good spot, let’s get excited.”


- Quenneville said Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are fine and will play in Game 1 on Wednesday. Bickell didn’t play from the early second period on in the Blackhawks’ Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Asked if Bickell was hurt or just not playing well, Quenneville said, “we’ll say it was my decision but we’ll say a little bit of both.”

- Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk will travel with the Blackhawks and is expected to practice with on Tuesday. Quenneville said the team will gauge where van Riemsdyk is following practice. He added that he’ll keep all options open regarding the fifth and sixth defensemen spots.

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

USA Today

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. He's 0-2-0 with a 4.63 goals-against average and .875 save percentage this season.

In 18 career appearances against the Oilers, Crawford is 9-7-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and one shutout. 

The decision is a little surprising, given how well Lehner performed on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets and what his career numbers are against the Oilers. In eight starts vs. Edmonton, Lehner is 5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and one shutout.

"We're going to continue to ... both guys are going to get in," coach Jeremy Colliton said after Monday's morning skate. "They're both going to play. I'm not going to give you the road map, but today it's Crawford and we'll go from there."

The Blackhawks are seeking their first win of the season (0-2-1) against an Oilers team that's 5-0-0.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.