The Chicago Blackhawks flew to Vancouver Monday for what they hope is just a short layover en route to their preferred West Coast destination.
That would be San Jose for the Western Conference finals. Their bags are packed and they're ready to go. All the Hawks have to do is beat the Canucks in Game 6 tonight at General Motors Place.
"This is something we didn't want to do," Chicago winger Patrick Kane said Monday of the return trip to Vancouver. "But we put ourselves in this situation, now hopefully we can win this one and go on to San Jose."
To do that, Kane said the Hawks must solve what he called the Canucks' fake forecheck. Kane really wasn't trash-talking the Canucks. He was, in fact, quite complimentary of the road game the Canucks played in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Hawks at the United Center that narrowed Chicago's lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2.
"They played a really good road game, that is as simple as it gets," Kane said. "They scored the first goal and trapped it up. I wouldn't say they didn't forecheck, but they kind of like fake forechecked you, where they pretended they were coming and then sat back a bit."
The Hawks fell for it hook, line and sinker. Chicago looked out of sorts for much of the night and as coach Joel Quenneville said Monday had real trouble making even the most simple passes.
"You know, they played a little different (Sunday) night," Kane said. "They just kind of sat back and waited for us to make mistakes. I think the biggest thing was they scored a minute into the game and got themselves some life and just kind of sat back and waited for us . . . I think for us, we just have to play patient."
The Hawks will look to exploit Vancouver's depleted defensive corps, which almost certainly will be without Sami Salo tonight. Salo was hurt at the end of the first period when he was struck in the groin area by a Duncan Keith shot. Vancouver's defence, also missing Willie Mitchell, was already judged to be its weakest link. Now without Salo, it becomes a real target for the Hawks.
Look for Chicago to dump more pucks deep into the Vancouver zone. Kane said that will serve two purposes. It will make it more difficult for the Canucks to clog up the neutral zone and it will challenge the Vancouver defencemen.
"When they do that (hang back) I think the biggest thing is to get pucks behind their D and cycle them down low," Kane said. "It seems like their defence is a little depleted right now especially with Salo going down, so you want to work them as best as you can down there and try to get them tired."
After two convincing wins in Vancouver in Games 3 and 4, the Hawks may have been guilty of feeling the end of the series was a mere formality. Now the Canucks have their attention again and the Hawks want to make sure they avoid having to come back to Chicago for a Game 7.
"I think that's not a bad thing," Quenneville said of the pressure his team now faces. "Certainly it was a get-our-attention type of game in all aspects of it. We have to rebound off of the effort and improve in all areas."
Quenneville said his team has consistently bounced back from sub-par outings.
"There are no easy series, no easy games, there are always going to be highs and lows and I think you have to respond accordingly," he said. "In the past we have always responded to a game that we're not happy about and that is what we are looking for."