Overtime-tested Blackhawks have no problem with extra sessions
CHICAGO – Even for the night owls it was a bit of a stretch.
As the clock transitioned from four digits to three early Wednesday morning the hockey was still going at the United Center. Most of the fans weren’t as the capacity crowd mostly remained in their seats when 1 A.M. approached and the period number went from five to six.
The struggle was not only on the ice between the Blackhawks and the Predators in Game 4 of their Western Conference first round series but also behind the scenes. Athletic trainers became a critical part of the game as they supplied food, drink and supplements to the players to get them through over 100 minutes of hockey.
Don’t think that wasn’t on Jonathan Toews’ mind as he reflected on the marathon game Wednesday afternoon.
“I was joking with our athletic trainer Jeff Thomas yesterday. He said something like his part in the game didn’t matter much before the game. I said ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself’,” said Toews. “After the game I talked to him and we were joking that our trainers out-trained them last night by getting us the coconut waters and bananas or whatever guys were eating.”
A 3-2 triple overtime win is certainly something to be celebrated by all. But if you look at it, the triumph makes some sense. After all the players, trainers, coaches, ect. have all had a lot of experience at doing this.
Last night was the second overtime game the Blackhawks have had in this first round series against the Predators. Both of those were victories that now have them with a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven first round series. It also marks the ninth overtime game the Blackhawks have played over the last two playoff series.
"I think that helps," said head coach Joel Quenneville of the teams' recent overtime experience. "I think that getting refocused for the next period and knowing some areas that we can be better and improved upon our discussed. Getting energy and getting that proper rest to get ready to do it all over again.
"They've had several tests in some long games and some big games and some big moments. That predictability can sometimes be beneficial. Last night could have been the case."
It probably was if you just look at it from the game winning goal. In the first extra session game of the series Duncan Keith who blasted a slap shot past Rinne from near the blue line to capture Game 1. It was almost the same place-except a little more to the center-where Brent Seabrook slapped home the game-winning goal.
But it's a little more complicated than that according to Toews, who believes there are a number of factors that teams knows to look out for when 60 minutes of regulation fails to produce a winner.
"You've just to got to try and outlast the other team. I think it's a balance of playing conservative and not making too many mistakes and just trying to work for that one lucky bounce, " said Toews. "I think at that part of the night the ice quality is not too high, you not going to be making pretty one-touch plays to the slot. It's going to be a luck bounce or a shot through traffic like we saw last night or something going on with a guy's shin pad, stick or something.
"You just have to go work for it and try to keep the puck in their end as much as you can. So we did that and we were on the winning side but a game like that can go either way."
The team's record in the extra session under Quenneville would show that to be the case but the team has been on the winning end most of the time. In the 30 overtime games the team has played since 2009 the Hawks are 18-12 with at least two extra session games in each playoff season.
Only once in the last six playoff seasons have the Hawks had a losing record in overtime and their Stanley Cup Championships in 2010 (3-1) and 2013 (5-2) were fueled by wins in extra time.
"Every team is different and every year is different but certainly we've got guys in the room that have won before and I think that helps," said defenseman Duncan Keith-who has been with the team since 2005. "Experience helps knowing you've been in certain situations before and you can draw upon your experience."
Especially in the wee small hours of the morning.