A dream season in peril. The best record in the league potentially squandered. Down 3-1 in a series against an underdog team from a rust-belt city.
Yeah, the Blackhawks know a little bit about how the Cubs feel right now
“It’s one game at this stage of the series, that’s the focus, that’s the concentration,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday morning, eight hours before the Cubs face the first of what they hope is three straight must-win games in the World Series. “They have to win big games. They’ve won a lot of big games and that’s how you’ve got to look at it. You can’t look past it.”
Under Quenneville, the Hawks four times have forced a Game 7 after trailing a series 3-1. In 2011, they rallied from 3-0 down before forcing a Game 7 and losing to Vancouver. In 2013, they turned a 3-1 deficit against the Detroit Red Wings into a Game 7 victory, a landmark series that propelled propelling them to their second Stanley Cup of the modern era. And in 2014 against Los Angeles and 2016 against St. Louis, they pushed back from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7 before losing one-goal games.
The challenge, according to Marcus Kruger, is to look at the small picture, not the imposing big picture.
“You’ve got to take it game by game,” Kruger said. “It’s maybe boring to say that, but that’s what it’s all about. If you think you have to win three games in a row against a good team like that, it’s going to be tough. But take it game by game. And if they win tonight, I think they have a good chance.”
Like the Cubs, the 2013 Hawks were significant favorites over the Red Wings. So even though they trailed 3-1, they were still — theoretically, at least — favored in each game going forward. With Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks lined up, the Cubs likely are, too.
“If you change the perspective on it, it’s going to be the toughest game for Cleveland to win, too, to get the fourth win,” Kruger said. ”It’s more pressure on them maybe now than on the Cubs, and if [the Cubs] can win this one at home now, they don’t have as much pressure maybe on the road.”
Of course, those 2013 Hawks had several players that already had won a championship, which, Kruger acknowledged, helped immensely. But the Hawks know it’s too soon to write off the Cubs just yet.
“Try to win one game, get the momentum back,” Quenneville said. “Home-field [advantage] tonight, just try to make a break. Look at the small picture and get that excitement. They’ve had a great season. Just win one game. Get it back.”