CHICAGO – A stinging overtime loss still fresh on their minds less than 24 hours later, the Chicago Blackhawks were hoping to rest and regroup Wednesday.
Even moreso, they were hoping to win a game. They already knew how difficult it would be to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions and now face an even more daunting assignment against the Detroit Red Wings: rally from a 2-0 deficit and win four of the next five games.
“You have to let that go. Last night, it’s a tough loss. It’s still a seven-game series and you got to win four games,” Chicago winger Andrew Ladd said of Tuesday night’s 3-2 setback.
Ladd offered some solace Wednesday from his experience with the Carolina Hurricanes three years ago during a run to the Stanley Cup.
“I just think you don’t want to panic,” Ladd said. “I know in Carolina, our first round against Montreal the year we won, we lost our first two games at home and ended up winning that series in six.”
But this is the conference finals and it’s the Red Wings. And even though the Blackhawks are counting on the roar of the United Center to give them a boost, they have to find a way to play better and cut down on their turnovers.
The Red Wings’ depth, the defence’s ability, led by Nicklas Lidstrom, to shut down Chicago’s young star Patrick Kane – three shots on goal Tuesday after none in Game 1 – and the play of goalie Chris Osgood have overridden concerns about fatigue.
“Every little inch against this team you have to work for,” Chicago’s Jonathan Toews said.
Detroit needed seven games to oust Anaheim in a gruelling semifinal. But the Red Wings still had enough energy in the late stages of the first two games against the younger Blackhawks. The Red Wings scored three times in the third period to take the opener 5-2 and then used a costly Chicago mistake to win frenetic Game 2 in overtime.
“Obviously, it’s the first time for a lot of those guys in the conference finals,” Detroit’s Brian Rafalski said, looking ahead to Game 3 Friday. “We’re going to have to come out with a lot of jump. The crowd is going to give them a big boost.”
Chicago seemed to have better puck management for most of Game 2, but the mistakes still cost the Blackhawks. There is very little margin against Detroit.
Normally steady Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook has twice had trouble controlling the puck, leading to a goal in each game by Detroit’s Dan Cleary – one on a breakaway Tuesday night.
And Mikael Samuelsson’s winner in overtime started on a turnover by Chicago’s Brian Campbell, leading to a three-on-one break.
“We look at the three goals in the first two games where we had the puck on the point, we had pretty good possession of it, and we ended up giving three goals off of that,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Wednesday.
“We certainly like to encourage plays and things like that. But they check well and their transition game off of those plays were, you know, very pivotal goals in two games. That’s one area where we got to be better.”
The Red Wings also took a day off practice Wednesday and will be back on the ice Thursday before making the short flight across Lake Michigan.
“I didn’t think we had much last night,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think the previous series caught up to us. … I don’t think we had any legs or any pop whatsoever. I thought we had good will and good determination, but no legs.”
But what they have is a 2-0 lead and a group of veterans confident of winning away from home. They are 3-2 on the road so far in these playoffs.
“We’re a good road team. We’ve been like that the last few seasons,” Cleary said. “We’ve been able to play a simple game. It’s about limiting the turnovers – don’t give them the opportunity to hurt you.”