Blackhawks know 'Game 4 is really big'
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Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp, here battling Detroit center Cory Emmerton for the puck in Game 3, says every playoff game is huge. But Game 4 in this series is even bigger than most.
DETROIT — When Mike Keenan coached the Blackhawks, he believed whichever team took Game 4 would win the playoff series.
It makes perfect sense, when you stop to think about it.
It's either a sweep, 3-1 or 2-2. And a 2-2 series can go either way.
That's what the Hawks are looking for as we come up to Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
They trail the best-of-seven series 2-1 after losing Game 3 on Monday and pretty much face a must-win situation.
"You throw around terms like 'must-win,' but I think every game in the playoffs is must win," Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. "You can spin it however you want, but every game is huge. Being down 2-1 in their building, obviously that Game 4 is really big."
This will be the biggest game of the season for the Hawks to this point.
At least they finally played like they understood the playoffs had started in their 3-1 loss Monday. It was an extremely fast game, but the Hawks could get just one puck past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 39 saves.
"That was probably the fastest playoff game I've ever been a part of," Howard said. "And I expect it just to get faster."
The Hawks think they did a lot of good things despite losing.
"I think we battled really hard," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "There was nothing wrong on our effort. It's just we had a lot of chances that we could've scored a couple goals on, but (Howard) played well in their net there.
"We all know the importance of the next game there in Joe Louis, so we're all focused on that task and looking forward to it."
There's no question the Hawks need to be a lot better on the power play, which was 0-for-4 in Game 3 and is 1-for-9 in the series.
The Hawks can't win the Stanley Cup with the power play playing so much on the perimeter. Heck, they can't even win this series without a better power play.
"I've got faith, not only in our whole group, but the guys who are on the power play that we'll find a way to get it done," Sharp said.
"Uhh … our power play," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday. "It starts with faceoffs. We had one good power play there in the game, and I thought the offensive zone time was in place.
"So hopefully something goes in, but I think you've still got to keep taking shots, be it of the rush or in zone."
The Red Wings are playing their best hockey of the season right now after a tumultuous regular season filled with highs and lows.
"I think as the year has gone on we've gotten better," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. "You work hard enough and play hard enough you get some confidence in yourself, and I think the group has done that. I've talked a lot about the fact we were getting better even when we weren't winning on a regular basis and then we started to win.
"We have really good leadership from (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Niklas) Kronwall and (Danny) Cleary, and we have a lot of kids that work hard and things are going in the right direction for us so far in the series.
"But let's be honest; we haven't done anything yet."
The Hawks know that, too.
"I don't think anybody is panicking," Marian Hossa said. "We're facing a good team that is playing it's best hockey. We still have lots of confidence in our team."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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