If you’re expecting Jonathan Toews or Brent Seabrook or some other team leader to stand up in the center of the Blackhawks dressing room at around 6:50 p.m. tonight and deliver a rousing speech to his teammates heading into a critical Game 4 of the Western Conference final tonight, well, then you don’t know this team very well.
“You know what? It’s like Game 30 in the regular season,” Marian Hossa said after the morning skate. “Everybody’s relaxed, everybody’s just going to another game. Everybody knows how important the game is, but nobody speaks. Everybody knows what to do.”
That poise in the face of potential disaster has long been a Hawks hallmark. But that doesn’t mean they don’t understand just how massive Game 4 is. Win, and it’s a 2-2 series heading back to Anaheim. Lose, and the Ducks can end the Hawks’ season on Monday night on home ice.
“We like to think every game is a must-win,” Toews said. “But the motivation is right there in front of us. We know what’s at stake. We want to even up the series and keep them close to us and stay in control of our own fate. Tonight’s a big one in those regards.”
After an ill-fated lineup change in Game 3, Joel Quenneville is going back to the lineup that swept the Minnesota Wild and earned a split in Anaheim. Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen are back on the third line with Patrick Sharp, while Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom are again healthy scratches.
“There were some good stretches in Game 2, and that line can be a factor offensively,” Quenneville said. “Defensively, they’ve been reliable, as well. Just [looking for] some pace and energy across the board. That four-line rotation that we felt was our best in Game 2 is what we’re looking for.”
Marcus Kruger also expects to get back in the faceoff dot after curiously not taking any draws in Game 3 — Kruger said on Saturday that he hasn’t been battling any sort of injury. He’ll be rejoined by Andrew Shaw (back on the wing, where he’s most effective) on the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins, a line that had been one of the Hawks’ most consistent.
But the Hawks’ problems in Game 3 went beyond just some bottom-six lineup changes. A dismal power play went 0-for-5, and the Hawks’ biggest stars other than Patrick Kane continue to slump offensively. Toews hasn’t scored since May 3, in Game 2 against the Wild. Neither has Sharp. Brandon Saad hasn’t scored since May 1. Hossa has one non-empty-net goal all postseason.
There are plenty of reasons the Hawks are down 2-1 in the series. But there are also plenty of reasons why the Hawks aren’t panicking. They’ve been here before — many, many times.
“I think you can definitely think of when we get down three games to one [against Detroit in 2013] and just kind of relive the feeling of being in that moment where, for a second, you feel like you’re losing hope, and you kind of regain your focus and say hey, wait a second, we just got to go out there win the next game and that’s all we need to worry about.” Toews said. “And then, boom, next thing you know, you’re in Game 7 overtime and it can go either way. So you never know until the end.
“That’s NHL hockey and it’s playoff hockey. It comes down to will. It comes down to, as cliché as it is, who wants it more. It’s a big reason why these two teams have made it this far. We want to keep going, so it’s up to us to find a way.”