With Game 1 looming, the Blackhawks “want to do it again”
by Scott King
No team currently playing in the NHL is as fully aware of how daunting a task it is to win a Stanley Cup like the Chicago Blackhawks, who start their first-round playoff series vs. the Nashville Predators on Thursday in Chicago.
Their core members have three rings and the extended veterans have a smaller, but respectable jewelry collection as well.
“We know how hard it is, how much work you have to put in,” said Blackhawks starting goaltender Corey Crawford. “After those cup wins I was exhausted. That was the most tired I’ve ever been in my career. It takes that I think to get to that point. You need guys healthy, there’s a lot of variables, but we definitely have the team here to do it.”
Crawford will no doubt be looking to get off to a better start this series than when he temporarily lost his net in 2015 vs. the Predators in the first round. Backup Scott Darling kept it warm, make that very warm, for Crawford. The starter was able to redeem himself at the end of the series and bring another cup back to Chicago after the playoffs.
“You try to learn from every situation you go through good or bad,” Crawford said of his brief stint on the bench in 2015. “You try to make it better for yourself in the future. Playoffs, there’s a lot of momentum, a lot of ups and downs.
“I think you just have to try to control that, try to stay at a level where you can keep playing and keep your focus as much as possible. Whether it be refs, or a bad bounce, or whatever the situation. You really just have to try to keep your focus one hundred percent on the game.”
Falling short to the St. Louis Blues in round one last year could pay dividends for the Blackhawks in this year’s postseason. The team got an extended rest they wouldn’t have gotten if they went deep, plus the burning frustration of falling short of their “one goal” that can continue to serve as motivation.
“I think when you always underachieve the year before there’s always that added incentive and that feeling that you got something to prove,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “I don’t think anyone cares who won last year, the year before… I think for us it’s the same thing. We want to do it again. We’re excited to be playing hockey this time of year, that’s what it’s all about for us and we’ll use that.”
Two-time Norris trophy winner (awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman) Duncan Keith didn’t dwell too much on last year’s shortcoming like his teammate.
“You just got to get over it. Maybe a week after the season you have to move on. It’s life. If you’re living in the past it’s not going to do anything for you. Obviously we want to have a better start, a better series, and I think that’s going to happen. We’re excited. St. Louis was a good team last year, but we’ve turned the page here. This is a whole new year, different opponent, different team on both sides.”
“There’s always something good for something bad,” said forward Marian Hossa. “I think we can use that rest towards this. Obviously every year is different, every series is different. I think there’s going to be more hunger.”
Superstar forward Patrick Kane, who finished the regular season tied for second place in points with Penguins center Sidney Crosby (89), welcomes the challenge ahead.
“I think we feel ready. I think we’re feeling good about the season we had. Obviously, home ice is nice to have compared to different playoffs in the past. [It’ll] be nice to have that home ice, start here and try to get something going right away. I think this group is ready and it’ll be a good challenge for us.”
Second line center Artem Anisimov joined the team at practice on Tuesday after being sidelined with a leg injury since March 14.
Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson returned Tuesday as well after his wife gave birth to baby Oliver.
Defenseman Michal Rozsival underwent surgery Tuesday to repair facial fractures. Coach Q said he’ll be available later in the playoffs.
Forward Andrew Desjardins remains out with a lower-body injury.
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