CHICAGO – Before boarding the Blackhawks’ team plane to the Motor City, hard-hitting forward Bryan Bickell strolled into an airport conference room for a quick news conference Sunday.
Bickell casually tucked his hands into the pockets of his dark dress pants as he stood in front of a half-dozen TV cameras and many more microphones. The only way he could have appeared to be more relaxed was if palm trees were in the background and a frozen drink were in his hand.
It was easy to relax a day after the Blackhawks’ dominant win against the Detroit Red Wings, which forced Game 6 and maybe, just maybe, planted a seed of doubt in the Wings’ minds.
“Our confidence was up,” Bickell said as he reflected on the Hawks’ most recent win, which cut the series deficit to 3-2. “Our plays were working. It just felt like everyone was clicking. …
“I think we were just relaxed. We had nothing to lose. We just went out there and played hockey.”
That’s what the Hawks do best.
In order to continue playing hockey, the Hawks will have to win Monday in front of a hostile crowd at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. That has proved to be a challenge during the Western Conference semifinals, as the Hawks lost Games 3 and 4 in Detroit while scoring one goal in 120 minutes.
Yet, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said those losses were far from lopsided.
“I look back at the last two games in their building and they were two tough losses,” said Quenneville, whose Hawks won both of their regular-season games at Joe Louis Arena. “You probably played the way you wanted to play.
“We’ve got to earn our breaks, but you want to make sure you don’t change too much from the way we played there the last couple of times there.”
Besides, if you believe the Hawks, all of the pressure now rests on the Wings’ shoulders.
Forget the fact that the Hawks had the best team in the NHL during the regular season, posting a 24-game point streak and clinching the Presidents’ Trophy with 77 points in 48 games. Forget the fact that approximately 37 Hawks players and coaches have been named as finalists for league awards, including Quenneville as a finalist for the NHL’s top coach.
Forget all of that because the Wings, once with a 3-1 edge, are the ones with the most to lose.
“The pressure is on them to eliminate us,” Hawks forward Andrew Shaw said. “They kind of have our backs against the wall, and we’re pushing back. It makes us a dangerous team.”
Well, that, along with talented core players and depth players who showed their skills in Game 5.
“I think we’re going to have the same mentality we did going into [Game 5],” Quenneville said. “Let’s be ready to play. Let’s have some energy. Let’s get off to a great start. Let’s be physical. Let’s have a purpose and don’t change much.”
Let’s drop the puck.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.