Past performance, as they say in the financials industry, is not a guarantee of future results. That said, the Blackhawks probably don’t mind having a bit of history on their side as they head into tonight’s pivotal Game 5 of the Western Conference finals (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA) against the Ducks.
Being deadlocked at two games apiece suits these Hawks just fine. In fact, they couldn’t be more comfortable. They’ve found themselves in a similar situation seven times since Joel Quenneville first stepped behind their bench back in 2008–09. Their record in those series? A flawless 7–0. They are an incredible 14–0 in games played after a series has been knotted at 2–2. They’ve never once needed a seventh game to finish the job.
In five of those seven series, Chicago had the benefit of home ice in Game 5 to help swing the tide in its favor. That won’t be the case tonight when the series resumes at the Honda Center in Anaheim, but that’s no cause for concern. The Blackhawks won the other two Game 5s that they had to play on the road: against the Canucks in 2010 and against the Blues four years later.
It’s not the setting that matters so much here. It's something in the DNA of Chicago’s core. Call it the killer instinct. The Blackhawks have been lethal under Quenneville because they have the ability to put their boots on the throats of their opponents when the opportunity presents itself.
“We feel we have to get better in [a] series to progress, to go through it,” Quenneville told reporters on Sunday. “So I think one thing is we find a way to get better each and every game. We know we needed our best game [on Saturday] night. I thought we had a hell of a game. We’re going to need a better game in Game 5 going into their building.”
That ability will be put to the test tonight because history, as it turns out, doesn’t always favor Chicago.
The Blackhawks have played four multiple-overtime games this spring, including their exhilarating 5–4 double-OT win on Saturday. And they lost the follow-up after each of the first three, including a 2–1 loss to the Ducks in Game 3 at the United Center last Thursday.
The key to breaking that cycle on Monday night? Showing up ready to play and capitalizing on their early momentum.
“One of the greatest attributes of this team, is being ready to start games, and [being] prepared to play—and play the right way,” Quenneville said. “It's something that's in place. I think we've started each and every game in the series well. As you get into the game, things take over. But that start is critical to everything. That's a great asset that we have with [this] group.”
Chicago’s resilience is also a big factor. Remember back to Game 4. Moments after the Blackhawks had taken a seemingly commanding 3–1 lead, they allowed three goals in just 37 seconds—the second-fastest meltdown in Stanley Cup playoff history. And yet instead of letting the game slip from their grasp the Hawks kept plugging away, getting the equalizer from Patrick Kane on the power play. That set the stage for Antoine Vermette’s heroics in the second overtime.
“My group finds ways,” Quenneville said. “It was one of those stretches where our guys find ways instead of looking for the out. It's an amazing group.”
Chicago will have to be amazing if it wants to keep one streak going tonight ... and put another to rest.
The numbers game
• The Blackhawks are the first team in NHL history to win four games that went into at least two overtimes during the same playoffs. The Devils (1994) are the only club to ever play four such games in one postseason.
• Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos is now the first player to score goals in four consecutive playoff games against the Rangers since Penguins great Mario Lemieux did it in 1996. Stamkos’s four-game postseason goal streak also ties Tampa Bay’s franchise record, shared by Martin St. Louis (2003) and Vincent Lecavalier (’07).
• Ben Bishop of the Lightning is only the third goalie in NHL history to shut out an opponent after allowing at least five goals in each of the previous two games of the same series. The others: Dan Bouchard of the Quebec Nordiques, on April 11, 1981, against the Flyers, and Carey Price of the Canadiens on April 21, 2008, against the Bruins.
• A former junior hockey star ran the numbers and determined which players would benefit the most financially after winning the Stanley Cup.
• A decade ago, this player was widely regarded as the best prospect in junior hockey. So how is it that he never played a single game in the NHL?
• Conventional wisdom says that a team needs great goaltending to win the Stanley Cup. These guys are proof that the conventional wisdom just isn’t true.