Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images
Fans cheer as members of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a third period goal against the Detroit Red Wings in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 15, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.
Ever since the Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, there has been plenty of hand-wringing, finger-pointing and various other signs of displeasure with the team’s performance.
Now, though, the Hawks head up to the Motor City looking to regain control of the series, and despite the weekend's lackluster outing, there are plenty of reasons for fans and players alike to be optimistic about the Hawks’ chances of establishing their game plan and taking a 2-1 series lead.
For starters, the Blackhawks have been an excellent road team this season. Their reputation since the arrival of guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane has been more of one as a dynamic home team, but the numbers don’t exactly bear that out this season. The Hawks scored 21 more goals on the road than at home this year and allowed 11 fewer goals while away from the United Center.
The reasons for this are pretty simple to explain. Head coach Joel Quenneville talks often about how his team needs to simplify their game when they are on the road, and true to form, that’s what the Hawks do. They aggressively forecheck and backcheck to create turnovers, and then they throw as many pucks on net as they can and try to hammer home rebounds. At home, the former is true, but the latter isn’t most times, because they seem to try to establish a perimeter-based possession style when they are in front of their home crowd, almost as if they are trying to be “pretty” rather than “effective.”
In addition to their change of style, the Blackhawks are also a team that responds well to adversity. When the Hawks gave up two late goals to lose a game to the Anaheim Ducks in mid-March, they responded by coming on national television and dismantling the Red Wings 7-1 at Joe Louis Arena. After a late April loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Hawks bounced back and outscored their next two opponents 7-2. Finally, in these playoffs, when the Hawks lost Game 3 of the first round series with the Wild, they came back and shut out Minnesota 3-0 in the next game.
Obviously, the Wings are a dangerous team, and Game 3 is going to be a struggle regardless of what kind of soul-searched epiphany the Hawks have gotten over the past few days, but there is a reason that the Hawks should still feel confident. Their road record indicates a good amount of mental toughness, and they’ll need to have that on full display if they are going to extract revenge for the beating the Wings laid on them in Game 2.