(CBS) Chicago center/winger Ben Smith has been pleased with the Blackhawks’ play throughout this postseason, but he also believes they haven’t hit top gear yet.
And he can’t wait until they do.
“I don’t know if we’ve gotten to the top of our game quite yet,” Smith said in an interview on the McNeil and Spiegel Show on Thursday. “We’ve played well when we’ve needed to. We’ve got good goaltending when we’ve needed to. We’ve had some guys step up and score some big goals when necessary. We’re playing well, but there’s definitely another level we can get to. We hope it happens here fast. We’re excited about where we are. The goal is just to keep getting better.”
The Blackhawks will play Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday at 2 p.m. against the winner of the Ducks-Kings, who play Game 7 on Friday night. If Anaheim wins, it will host Chicago in the opener. If Los Angeles wins, Chicago will have home-ice advantage.
One of the keys to Chicago closing out Minnesota in the second round was its reliance on all four lines, Smith said. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t always give the fourth line consistent ice time, but he did in Games 5 and 6 against the Wild, shortening the shifts in the process.
“We had four lines playing hard and playing some quality minutes,” Smith said. “When we do that, when we get some consistency throughout our lineup, that’s when I think we’re at the top of our game. I think that’s what we’re looking for here for the next series.
“It keeps everybody involved in the game. It keeps guys fresh when you’re kind of constantly changing. It keeps the pace of the game up, and that helps our team, because we like playing with pace. We’re a skating team, puck-possession team. When we can keep the lines rolling, it puts us in a good spot to create chances.”