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updated: 5/12/2013 7:37 PM

It's time for Blackhawks to take it to next level

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  • Patrick Kane, here clearing the puck out for goalie Corey Crawford in Game 5 against Minnesota, and the rest of the Blackhawks know things will intensify in Round 2 of the playoffs.

      Patrick Kane, here clearing the puck out for goalie Corey Crawford in Game 5 against Minnesota, and the rest of the Blackhawks know things will intensify in Round 2 of the playoffs.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Blackhawks played as well as they had to against an injury depleted Minnesota Wild team in the first round.

The Hawks dispatched the Wild in five games, but they weren't at their best and they know it.

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Stepping up in class in the second round, the Hawks better be ready to elevate their game or the dream of a second Stanley Cup in four years will come to an end.

Everything gets harder from here.

"It was a good feeling after (Game 5) the other night, but I think everyone was almost a little bit (ticked) too because we haven't really played at the level we wanted to," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said.

"We all know we have one more level. I think we played better in the regular season than we have here in the playoffs. I think we have a lot more to give."

The Hawks need to crank up the intensity, the physical play and use their speed more.

"Just overall the intensity level I think can be better," Hjalmarsson said. "More sense of urgency and the battle level has to get up a couple notches if we want to make it past the second round."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville tried some different things at a tough practice Saturday to try to snap his team to attention, such as replacing Brandon Saad with Ben Smith at left wing on the first line and dropping Viktor Stalberg out of the top four lines.

Dave Bolland was back at center on the third line with Andrew Shaw moving over to right wing.

"We want to get sharp and hopefully we can elevate the pace of our team game," Quenneville said. "That's basically how we want to make sure we're going into the next round. It's not a switch you can turn off and on. You've got to make sure you have that pace in practice so you can play like that in games."

When they won the Cup in 2010, the Hawks didn't have the luxury of easing into the playoffs. They were in the fight of their lives immediately from the Nashville Predators.

"We need to find the game shape, game face and have that mentality that when we come back for our first game we're going right into that high intensity level," Patrick Kane said. "That's the biggest thing is just bringing a little more intensity. That's what we've talked about ever since probably Game 1. I don't know if we've reached that level we think we should be at yet.

"It goes for me and it goes for everyone," Kane added. "I don't know why it has been like that, but series will definitely get a lot more tougher as we go along here. Our next opponent will be ready for us, so we've got to come out and play hard because you see when we do we have so much more success."

Kane thinks the Hawks got by in the first round on their skill and talent alone.

"You always want to be peaking at this time of year," he said. "You see teams that finish the regular season well come into playoffs and start playing well, too."

The Hawks are going to have a minimum of four days off before the next series starts, possibly five.

"It's about staying focused and it's about preparing mentally and physically," Patrick Sharp said. "It's easy with time off to kick your feet up and watch other games and feel like you're ready to play, but as we saw (Saturday), we haven't had a practice like that all season.

"It was a little more intense and guys were playing harder out there. Joel has some practice drills that we're doing to keep us on our toes. You want to stay ready to go."

•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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