Mental recovery as important as physical recovery after 3OT thriller

SHARE Mental recovery as important as physical recovery after 3OT thriller

Never mind the sore feet, the achy legs, the heavy arms. Professional athletes these days know how to prepare for a game, how to manage themselves during the game, and how to recover afterward. Every calorie and electrolyte gets replaced, and a small army of athletic trainers and therapists are there to work out the lactic acid and push past the cramps.

By the time the puck drops at the United Center on Thursday night and the Game 3 adrenaline kicks in, the physical effects of Tuesday’s epic triple-overtime game in Anaheim — the longest game in Blackhawks history —really shouldn’t have too much of an impact. Besides, both teams went through the same ordeal.

The mental effects, on the other hand, are very much in question. The Ducks are a confident bunch, with a fair amount of postseason experience. But can they put Tuesday’s 3-2 loss — a game in which they hit four posts in overtime, and had the game on their sticks at least a half-dozen times —behind them, just 42 hours later, in front of a rabid Chicago crowd against a supremely confident Hawks team coming off yet another monster victory?

“We’ve done it all year,” a defiant Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I would be more surprised if we weren’t able to rebound and play a really great game than if it went the other way around. I’ve been with this group for a long time now. You can see it. They were — rightfully so — very angry [Tuesday] night. Not disappointed, but angry. That’s a good thing.”

That’s how the Hawks felt last spring, after dropping a triple-overtime opener against St. Louis in the first round. They lost the next game in overtime, too, to fall behind 2-0 in the series. But they reeled off four wins in a row after that — including two more overtime games —to win the series in six games, the hallmark of a team that never feels it’s out of it, that never lets the recent past affect the immediate future.

The Ducks need to move past the frustration and disappointment. The Hawks need to move past the excitement and celebration. It’s a best-of-five series now, and both teams appear to be in it for the long haul.

“I guess we’d rather be on the winning side of a game like that that a losing side,” Jonathan Toews said. “It’s mostly how we carry it into [Thursday] night’s game, coming off a win like that. We can imagine it doesn’t feel too good to play almost six periods [and] come up on the losing side.”

Marcus Kruger’s redirect of a Brent Seabrook shot late in the third overtime dramatically changed the complexion of the series. Had the Hawks lost on any of Corey Perry’s golden chances, or Sami Vatanen’s two iron strikes, the reality would have been that Anaheim had merely held serve at home. But the perception would have been greatly different, especially after the Ducks utterly dominated play while erasing an early 2-0 deficit. The Hawks were on their heels in the game, and in the series. But suddenly, they’re in control.

The difference between a 1-1 series and a 2-0 series was mere inches, but is massive nonetheless.

“It’s a big difference,” Patrick Sharp said. “When you play that long a game, it’s nice to come out on the winning side, as well. It’s going to be that type of series.”

The Ducks are trying to focus on the positive — how their relentless forecheck wreaked havoc on the Hawks’ undermanned defense, how they generated so many great scoring chances, how untested Frederik Andersen went toe-to-toe and save-for-save with the Stanley Cup-winning Corey Crawford. It’s all they can do after a game like that.

“We could have won,” defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. “We were right there. It’s not hard to move on, because we had our chances.”

Added captain Ryan Getzlaf: “No matter what the outcome is the one before, it’s about the next one now. You know, never once did we think we were going to sweep the Chicago Blackhawks. We lost one. Now we’ve just got to prepare again.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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