In a series that seems to be tipping the Anaheim Ducks’ way, the best thing the Blackhawks have going for them is that they’re the Blackhawks — a championship-caliber team with an unshakable resolve and an uncanny knack for winning Stanley Cup playoff coin flips.
With their Western Conference final series tied 2-2 heading to Anaheim for Game 5 on Monday night, the Hawks have their time-tested playoff history on the Hawks’ side:
- They are 7-0 in playoff series that are tied 2-2 under Joel Quenneville, without losing a game (14-0, including 7-0 on the road).
- – They are 26-6 in Games 5-6-7 of a playoff series in the Quenneville era —an indication of the Hawks’ ability to get stronger as each series progresses. The Hawks are 29-28 in Games 1-3 of the playoffs under Quenneville; but 12-5 in Game 4; 13-3 in Game 5 and 12-1 in Game 6.
- And in a series that is getting tighter and tighter, the Hawks’ ability to win the mental-toughness battle in overtime can’t be ignored. The Hawks are 4-0 in overtime this season and 13-5 over the past three seasons, including 7-1 in multiple-overtime games. Nobody else in the NHL is even close. The Ducks are 4-7 in overtime in the same span. The Kings are 6-5. The Rangers are 7-8. With everybody else, a coin flip is a coin flip. With the Hawks, it seems to be “Heads I win. Tails you lose.”
Not even the ignominy of an historic collapse — allowing three goals in 37 seconds to turn a 3-1 third-period lead into a 4-3 deficit —could faze the Hawks. They just keep plugging away, look for a hero — whether it’s Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews or Marcus Kruger or Antoine Vermette — and find a way.
“I think that’s why we feel we have a confident group and there’s still another level we can get to,” Toews said.
The way this series is progressing, the Hawks very likely are going to have to reach that level to win it. Though their own playoff history is on their side, they face some difficult, if not daunting challenges against the Ducks to reach the Stanley Cup final.
Not only do the Hawks have to win another road game, but they’re facing a team that wants it every bit as much as they do — if not more, judging by the three-goals-in-37-seconds flurry in Game 5 when most teams might have packed it in.
“Absolutely it’s a good team we’re playing,” Quenneville said. “They play hard. These games, they’re long games, they’re hard games.
“At the same time we feel we have to get better in series to go through it. So I think one thing is we find a way to get better each and every game. We know we needed our best game [Saturday] night. I thought we had a hell of a game. We’re going to need a better game in Game 5 going into their building. That’s the mindset.”
The Hawks, though are going to have to battle their own fatigue after a second multiple-overtime game in the series. The Hawks are 0-3 after playing a multiple-overtime game in the playoffs this year. They lost 6-2 and 5-2 against Nashville in the first round. They lost 2-1 against the Ducks in Game 3 at home.
Not an issue to them.
“I don’t think so,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “I think Game 3 [coming off the triple-overtime victory in Game 2] was a tight game. It could have gone either way. We were one post away from tying that and going into overtime again.”
Quenneville is counting on an old stand-by to get his team through it —the Hawks just being the Hawks.
“One of the greatest attributes of this team is being ready to start games and be prepared to play and play the right way,” Quenneville said. “It’s something that’s in place.
“I think we’ve started every game in the series well. As you get into the game, things take over. But that start is critical to everything. That’s a great asset that we have with this group.”
But unlike previous series where the Hawks have had to withstand the first 10 minutes of a period on the road, in this one it’s the last 10 minutes that are the issue. The Ducks have the speed and strength, the verve and depth to keep on coming. The Hawks are going to have to be the Hawks —and then some — to pull this one out.