DETROIT – After playing two consecutive games with the pressure squarely on their shoulders, the Chicago Blackhawks now have someone who can share that burden.
Battling back from a 3-1 hole in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks have forced a Game 7 back at the United Center. It starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
“There’s pressure on both teams,” Chicago’s Jonathan Toews said. “Both teams really want to win. I think most of that pressure comes from within. You want to win for yourself. You want to win for the guys next to you. And it was no breeze getting to this point. Even though it was a shortened season, every guy in this room, whether they play every night or the guys that sacrifice their playing time and get scratched, whatever it is we have a lot of great individuals here who paid the price to get here. That’s where the pressure comes from and nowhere else. We want to win for each other. That’s what matters most.”
Chicago began the year 21-0-3 and won the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record.
“I’m not worried about if we have anything to lose or anything like that,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “I’m just worried about winning the game. It’s all we’re thinking about in here. We turned it around. We’ve been playing a Game 7 type of game the last two games and we’ve been doing it pretty good. But it’s all for nothing if we can’t win the next game here, and personally Game 7s are the most exciting games to play.”
The Wings needed wins in their last four regular-season games just to qualify for the postseason as the seventh seed.
“We’re going to look at it as more fun,” Chicago goalie Corey Crawford said. “We’re excited about this game, having it in our building. The crowd is going to be loud. Like I said, it’s just going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun to go out there to try to win a game and move on.”
After taking Game 1 in the series, the Blackhawks were outscored 9-2 over the next three games, which resulted in their first three-game losing streak of the season.
They have since outscored Detroit 8-4 over the last two games.
“We look back the last couple games, we thought we were in a pretty good place when we had this meeting after Game 4,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “The belief was definitely in the room here and we believed in each other and we wanted to go capture the momentum. Thought we did a great job in Game 5 with the crowd and everybody behind us. We got the momentum back, went in their building and did the same thing and had a great start, got it back in the third period and here we are. I think we’re excited about where we’re at and basically we couldn’t ask for a better move from where we were after Game 4 to where we are at the moment.”
In 2011, Chicago was in a similar situation against Vancouver, falling behind 3-0 before forcing a Game 7 on the road that the Blackhawks lost 2-1 in overtime.
“I remember winning three games in a row and just the feeling of invincibility,” Toews said, recalling that series with the Canucks. “I think maybe this time we know it’s one thing to carry that momentum and ride it into a Game 7. But that other team is going to come back with everything they’ve got, too. So we have to be ready for that.
“When you go into another building in a tough game, one of those things that you’re trying to take away from the other team is that energy that they feed off of,” Toews continued. “You try not to worry about that sort of thing too much when you’re on the road.”