Blackhawks unfazed by ever-changing start times in playoffs

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Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks have shrugged off all the unusual start times in this postseason. (AP Photo)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jonathan Toews reached for a joke, but all he came up with were clichés. After five 8:45 p.m. starts in the first two rounds, followed by nine days off, followed by a noon start, followed by a 6 p.m. start on Tuesday, there are only so many ways you can offer a shrug and a soundbite.

“You run out of jokes, you run out of ways to mock the situation,” Toews said of the schedule. “It is what it is, as they say. It’s the same thing for both teams at the end of the day. We’ll go out there and play. We want to win, so it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. We’ll go out there and do it.”

The NHL had Central Division teams playing regularly at 8:45 p.m. local time in the first round, while Eastern Conference and Pacific teams all had their usual 7 or 7:30 p.m. puck-drops, to better spread the games out for the television audience.

Game 2 was the Hawks’ 12th game this postseason, and only four of those games have had standard game day routines. Three times, the Hawks have had “morning skates” at noon. And three times (including Tuesday), they skipped the morning skate because of the early start. The Anaheim Ducks held an optional morning skate bright and early — 9 a.m. —on Tuesday. Typically, the home team skates at 10:30 a.m., and the road team skates at 11:30 a.m.

“It’s different,” Andrew Desjardins said. “It definitely changes things for you — a different pregame skate time, or no pregame skate. It’s a mental thing. You’ve just got to prepare differently. You know that stuff’s going to happen with the TV and with everything else. So I think you’re mentally ready for it. We’ve had plenty of days [in advance] to know what our schedule was, so you just have to mentally prepare for it.”

Hockey players are notorious creatures of habit, but as Toews said, “I don’t think there’s anything else that can surprise us anymore.”

“We try to roll with it, go with the flow,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Changing our pattern over a long season, a long playoffs — sometimes it gets a little bit too predictable and can be stale. We try to mix it up a little bit with our times, different times [for] our meetings, our practices. … Our guys, they’re focused in their concentration as the game starts. No excuses. Let’s go.”

On the line

All the talk entering the series was on the Ducks’ big first line of Pat Maroon, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. But other than a secondary assist by Getzlaf on an empty-net goal, the trio didn’t do much in Game 1. Getzlaf even had two ghastly turnovers in his own end.

“Our line wasn’t very good,” Getzlaf said. “Not beating around anything. We didn’t handle the puck that well, and that’s one of our strengths. It wasn’t that we didn’t do other aspects of the game well, but we didn’t handle the puck.”

Without the benefit of the last change, Toews’ line only saw Getzlaf’s for about 80 seconds of play in Game 1. The Hawks’ other three lines, and the defensive pairing of Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, however, shared the responsibility and largely shut down the line, holding the three to two shots on goal each.

Aces in the hole

With Rockford’s playoff run ending in the second round, the Hawks recalled four players to be Black Aces during the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs — forwards Ryan Hartman and Phil Danault, and defensemen Ville Pokka and Viktor Svedberg. Stephen Johns would have been a call-up (and might have even played) had he not suffered a broken forearm in the IceHogs’ finale.

The Black Aces will join the Hawks in Chicago, but it’s highly unlikely any of them see the ice during a game. It’s more about practicing with the team and experiencing life in the NHL.

“They got an opportunity to get some practice in with us, [we can] see them, as well, see how they git in with our team down the road,” Quenneville said.


Twitter: @marklazerus

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