To prepare for this year’s Game 7, the Blackhawks look a year back
CHICAGO – It’s a Throwback Thursday that is both painful and necessary.
At least the Blackhawks have this chance to experience some heartache while having a chance to redeem themselves from it.
Thanks to a win over the Ducks on Wednesday night the Blackhawks once again find themselves in the decisive game of the Western Conference Finals. The position they’ll be in on Saturday is exactly where they were just under a year ago against the Los Angeles Kings.
“We’re lucky to be back in the same situation as we were last year,” said forward Patrick Sharp. “We touched on it earlier with the opportunity that we have here. I know it seems like we’ve been in the Conference Finals a few times in the last couple years, but these opportunities don’t come along too often.”
Neither does the painful result of the Game 7 at the United Center against L.A.
The Blackhawks lost a lead late in regulation and then Alec Martinez got a lucky bounce off Nick Leddy’s arm for the game-winning goal in overtime to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals. Joel Quenneville’s team would watch L.A. decimate the Rangers in five games to win a championship.
“Obviously you get in overtime in a Game 7, anything can happen,” said the Blackhawks’ coach. “Those type of things, we’ve seen three overtime games in our series here. There’s some unpredictability there.
“But Game 7, as a player, those are the type of games you want to be a part of. The disappointment that we exited with is something that should get us excited.”
It's not been a terribly common occurrence in the Quenneville era. Since 2009 the Blackhawks have played in three Game 7's including the one against the Kings in 2014, a second round series in 2013 against Detroit and a first round match-up with the Canucks in 2011. Only the Red Wings finale ended in a victory.
But according to Sharp the team has played in many situations like they'll face at the Honda Center at 8 P.M. on Saturday night. In fact, the scenario has happened twice in this series.
"It's very similar to just playing overtime, to be honest with you," said Sharp when asked about the nerves and intensity before a decisive game. "Right from the drop of the puck in the first period, every shift is important like it always is. It's magnified that much more in a Game 7. Our group has played plenty of overtimes, also Game 7s to draw experience from.
"I like the guys in our locker room. We get excited for opportunities like that. We don't shy away. We want the puck, want to score goals, play as well as we can."
Maybe then they can get all the bad from that loss to the Kings out of their minds. Sharp would like that since he had a front row seat to the game-winning goal in last year's Game 7.
"Martinez shot it from the other side, it got deflected, went in. You could feel the air go out of the building. You could feel your heart drop a little bit, being that close," said Sharp. "We had a couple leads in that game, as well. Battling back from being down in that series against the Kings was a tough way to go out on home ice.
"You kind of learn from it. You use it as hunger to get back to the situation and try to learn from your past experience. Hopefully it's a different scenario for us this time."
Perhaps a little better throwback memory too.