By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — For a group that has thrice hoisted the Stanley Cup in the past seven years, it’s quite a surprising fact that the Blackhawks have fallen behind 2-1 in nine playoff series under coach Joel Quenneville’s direction. Of course, they have won seven of those series.
That’s because Quenneville’s teams own a remarkable 43-14 record in Games 4-7 since 2010.
Now here the Blackhawks are again, entering Tuesday’s Game 4 at the United Center having dropped two of three one-goal games with the Blues in their first-round series.
“In order to beat a really good team, you got to be great,” Quenneville said Monday. “We got another level to reach greatness.”
These aren’t the same Blues that have been bounced in the first round in four straight postseasons. For their part, the Blackhawks have to be the same team that shows its resilience each time the Stanley Cup is put on the line.
Part of the Blackhawks’ success late in a series is simply having a Hall of Fame coach in Quenneville making the necessary adjustments — from line tweaks to fine-tuning the attack — that can help bring out his team’s best. A lot of the formula is also the Blackhawks’ experience.
The Blackhawks aren’t sweating their 2-1 deficit to the Blues, even while acknowledging the great challenge ahead. They’ve been in this situation many times before.
Even for Andrew Ladd, who hasn’t played a postseason series with the Blackhawks since 2010, the feeling is palpable.
“It’s the confidence in that room and understanding how important that next game is,” Ladd said. “We’re confident that if we play the way we know we can play, we give ourselves a great chance to win the game. That’s the opportunity we have the next game. You try to get your emotional level up for that one and get ready to go.”
Explained defenseman Duncan Keith: “There’s always another level.”
Trailing the Blues, the Blackhawks believe their best hockey is still ahead of them. Adjustments will be made on this Monday off day, then Chicago will return to its home ice Tuesday and hope it pays off in Game 4.
Quenneville admitted that line changes could be coming. He needs to find the right mix to break the Blackhawks out of their five-on-five struggles, while attempting to find better play from his bottom six. All of Chicago’s points through three games have come from the top lines, and Andrew Shaw’s the lone Blackhawk bottom-line player with a point, that coming on a power-play goal.
The Blackhawks have been flustered by the Blues’ physical play and tight-checking style, but Quenneville has shown his ability to adjust.
“You always want to draw on that experience we’ve had in the past,” Keith added. “We’ve been in situations before where we’re trailing, and we’re able to find a way.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock acknowledged the Blackhawks’ “next level” that has often been revealed in the playoffs. After all, they’ve knocked out his St. Louis squad once before, in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Down to a tough opponent, the Blackhawks believe their best game will come in Quenneville’s adjustments. Being in this position before surely eases much of the concern.
That 43-14 mark is no fluke on the Blackhawks’ end.
“Coming back in a series, I think it’s the character in the room, from the coaching staff to all the players,” Shaw said. “We feed off each other. We always stick together through thick and thin, and we always seem to come out on top.”