By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) The Blackhawks don’t have a whole lot of experience with Game 7s, but a number of the players were a part of the team that suffered a brutal Game 7 overtime loss in Vancouver two years ago.
Head coach Joel Quenneville brought up that Vancouver series to his team last week when the Blackhawks were trailing 3-1 in their series to Red Wings, and like they did against the Canucks in 2011, the Hawks have fought back to force a do-or-die Game 7 Wednesday night.
“Obviously you get to overtime and anything can happen, but we found a way to get back in the game and we had a chance on the power play as well,” Quenneville said about that Game 7 in Vancouver two years ago. “But I don’t think there’s too much you would look at changing.”
There’s actually a lot that can be taken away from that loss to the Canucks in 2011. For one, it proved that you have to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself in a Game 7. The Blackhawks went on the power play 24 seconds into overtime, but failed to score when Patrick Sharp couldn’t get enough elevation on a shot near the net and Roberto Luongo made the save. Minutes later, the Canucks won the game on an Alex Burrows goal.
Of course, the game probably wouldn’t have gone into overtime if Corey Crawford hadn’t been the best player on the ice that night. He came up with save after save, including a stop on a Burrows penalty shot. And while that game was played over two years ago, the experience of that Game 7 has to give the Blackhawks confidence about their goaltender tonight at the United Center.
“You look at any Game 7, you could almost change the name of the game from hockey to goalie,” Quenneville said.
Indeed, both Crawford and Jimmy Howard will have a huge impact on the outcome of tonight’s Game 7, but Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock didn’t want to put all the focus on the goaltenders.
“The 19 other guys, they kind of think they are involved too. So let’s not get too carried away here,” he said.
And two of his 19 other guys are Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk who have combined for just one goal and four assists in this series.
“Lots of you people did a lot of talking about Jonathan Toews at the start of the series and I just know that those kind of people just come,” Babock said when asked about his top two players. “They just do. That’s just the way it is.”
But the Blackhawks have done a great job on Detroit’s best players in this series and they won’t change much going into Game 7. Quenneville’s lines didn’t change in Wednesday’s morning skate and one wouldn’t think the approach will change either.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings appear to be a surprisingly confident group despite losing two in a row.
“We have great history in Game 7s,” Babcock said. “Those guys play, we got a win tonight. Should be fine.”
Of course, the Wings did go into Anaheim just two weeks ago and throughly outplay the Ducks on their own ice in a Game 7.
“We talk about Game 7 sometimes like it’s something to avoid,” Babcock said. “It’s as much fun as you can have in hockey … Let’s play.”
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