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posted: 5/22/2013 5:30 AM

Blackhawks' fate in their own hands, skates

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  • Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville can only hope his team carries its play from Game 3 into Thursday's crucial Game 4 at Detroit.

      Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville can only hope his team carries its play from Game 3 into Thursday's crucial Game 4 at Detroit.
    Associated Press

 
 

In 2010, the Blackhawks opened the playoffs with a 4-1 loss to Nashville at home.

Not exactly the kind of performance that inspired visions of a Stanley Cup.

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The Hawks bounced back in Game 2, lost Game 3 -- 4-1 again -- at Nashville, and faced a 2-1 series deficit with Game 4 on the road.

And then they won the next three, including that insane Game 5 in Chicago.

They also dropped the first game of the next round to Vancouver, before winning four of the next five.

A month later, they were Stanley Cup champs.

In 2011, Boston was down 0-2 in the opening series with Montreal, losing two at home, before winning four of the next five.

In the conference finals, the Bruins lost Game 1 at home and were tied at 2-2 before winning the series in seven games. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins lost the first two on the road, tied it at 2-2, went down 3-2 and then won Game 6 at home and Game 7 in Vancouver, as the Canucks went down in a blaze of infamy.

Not what you would call an easy path to the Cup.

In 2009, Pittsburgh was down 0-2 to Washington in the second round before winning four of the next five. In the Finals, like Boston, the Penguins lost the first two on the road, won two at home, lost Game 5 at Detroit and then captured the next two games, including a Game 7 win on the road.

And so it goes, on and on throughout NHL history.

Teams face adversity and they are always offered the chance in a seven-game series to adjust, adapt and overcome.

So where are the Blackhawks right now? One victory away from getting back on track, tying the series at 2-2 and regaining home ice against Detroit.

"It almost takes something like this," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, "maybe someone to slap you in the face, so to speak, to really understand what adversity is and how tough it can be."

The Hawks showed some heart and desperation in Game 3 against Detroit, and though they didn't get the result they sought, that was a significant change in demeanor.

It seems as though they might finally get it now, finally understand that this is the NHL postseason, where sleepwalking through a first-round series against a weak opponent doesn't prepare you for what comes next.

But now that they've shown they can play hard, they need to prove they can play with some guts. That 2010 team had guys like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg, fearless players with big, um, guts. When times are difficult, you need players like that.

So who among this group, from the supporting cast, will show that type of character Thursday night? It's not only a good question, it's also a fair question.

The fact that the Hawks are complaining about the Red Wings' physical play is not only evidence that Detroit is in their heads, it's also laughable.

This is the Detroit Red Wings were talking about, not the Lions. The Wings are the softest team in the league not named Chicago, so how would the Hawks handle it if they survived this series and faced Los Angeles, San Jose, Pittsburgh, New York or Boston?

Seriously, the Wings are being too mean and physical?

Wow. The Hawks better get it together mentally, fight through some checks -- illegal or not -- and play like the NHL's top seed. And, honestly, stop whining about the refs or the Wings' tactics.

If a team with less talent and speed is slowing down the game with a neutral zone trap, you beat them with long passes and take advantage of your skating ability. You win the race to the puck, and you win some puck battles.

The Hawks began to do that in Game 3, which was at least one game too late, but they adjusted.

In Game 4, they must do more of that and prove they have the mental makeup to win the biggest game of the year on the road.

"Playoffs are long. Not everything is going to go your way," said Duncan Keith. "We've been through some adversity in our lives and over the past few years. We've got to use it to our advantage and dig down and do whatever you can to get some goals and win the next game."

Keith could not be more correct, and if all of his teammates arrive at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night with the same attitude, the Hawks have an excellent chance to win.

If they don't, the players who don't show up have an excellent chance to be in a different city next season.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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