History of playoff road success buoys struggling Blackhawks

SHARE History of playoff road success buoys struggling Blackhawks

Michael Frolik (67) scores for the Blackhawks on a penalty shot in Game 6 of the second-round series against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in 2013. The Hawks staved off elimination by winning 4-3 and won the series in seven games en route to their second Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks are in dire straits already, trying to save their season at Bridgestone Arena in Games 3 and 4 after a stunning 0-2 start to their first-round series against the Predators. But there was one glimmer of hope: They do some of their best work on the road.

The Hawks don’t look as if they’re primed to turn this series around. It’s not like the 0-2 hole they were in against the Blues in 2014. Not only were those opening losses on the road, but they were competitive games decided in overtime. This time, the Hawks have lost both games at home and got worse when they were expected to get better.

But it’s not like Bridgestone Arena will present an impossible obstacle in Game 3 on Monday night and Game 4 on Thursday night. The Hawks have been one of the best playoff road teams in the NHL during their run to three Stanley Cups. They’ve won at least one road game in 18 consecutive playoff series. They’ll need to win two road games to win this series, but they’ve done that in each of their last four playoff series — against the Wild, Ducks and Lightning en route to winning the Cup in 2015; and against the Blues last year.

“We’ve got a lot of guys, they’ve been in some great situations and some tough situations,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Their composure — the bigger the challenge, the bigger the test, they rise to a different level.

“It’s a unique quality. Several of our leaders and what they can deliver in some tough spots. It doesn’t matter where or when, but it seems like as it grows, it comes out and we’re going to need it.

The Hawks were tied for the second-best road record in the NHL at 24-13-4.

“We had a great season on the road, and obviously we need to find some new energy,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “These last two games weren’t good enough in a lot of different ways. It’s a positive thing to go on the road and know that we can play really well and win games. We’re all excited for the opportunity.”

In dire postseason circumstances — trailing in a series, in overtime, on the road — the Hawks rely on mental toughness to pull them through. They insist they’ve still got it, and the Predators seem to know it.

“I don’t think there’s such a thing as [a psychological] advantage versus the Hawks,” Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “They’re a dangerous team no matter where they sit — whether you’re up 3-0, 2-1, 1-0, down, whatever. They’re a team that’s been in a lot of different situations over the years and have found -success.”

Last year, the Predators won Games 1-2 on the road against the Ducks, then lost Games 3-4 at home and fell behind 3-2 in the series before rallying to win in seven games.

“It’s almost more dangerous to be up because you may be comfortable,” Ellis said. “We found ourselves in that [situation last year].”

Ellis figures the Predators have learned their lesson. But for the Hawks, playing on the road is an opportunity to plant a seed of doubt in the Predators and reverse the momentum of this -series.

“We can’t really say we had the momentum at any stage. In the playoffs, we know the importance of it,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got to find a way to get it back early in [Game 3] and try to sustain it.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com


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