The first and only two-day break between playoff games saw both the Hawks and Sharks taking to the ice for practice.
The Blackhawks theme of the day, of course, is reversing the trend of average play at home.
The news that the team will stay in a hotel Friday afternoon, after their morning practice, didn’t come as a complete shock.
The “road routine” has worked so well, why not try to bring it home? Simply put, there is no downside. A case could be made that the team should have stayed in a hotel Thursday night as well—John Madden said his New Jersey squad stayed in hotels in similar circumstances.
Joel Quenneville chose the Friday option saying he wanted to just “change things up.” He used similar terminology in explaining the Hawks' decision to take the day off last week in San Jose and visit Alactraz Island. The Hawks went on to win their first opening game in a playoff series since 2009, so maybe changing it up is all that’s needed.
Quenneville is going with the status quo in regards to his lineup, and that’s no surprise either. Despite a close affair in Game 1 of this round, the Hawks have played three solid contests dating back to their elimination game of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of that series.
Perhaps the biggest surprised of the day was Sharks coach Todd McLellan’s casual admittance that he might mix and match his top two lines for Game 3.
Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley are a combined minus-12 in the first two games, having done very little during five-on-five play. Breaking them up would constitute a major change of philosophy for the Sharks. Remember, this trio made the Olympics and played together as a line in Vancouver. They’ve been a top line in the NHL all season.
“There's a real good chance of that,” McLellan said. “Obviously, we talk again of the match scenario. We've only scored three goals in the series. We have to find a way to be a little more offensive.”
Though dramatic, it’s a good move. If the Hawks had scored only two goals that mattered in two games, Quenneville would most certainly be changing things. More than the stats, the eye test tells you the Thornton line has issues as its constituted--and that’s with the Sharks getting last change at home. With Dave Bolland ready and waiting now at the United Center, every time the big three jump over the boards, it makes sense to try something different. Keeping one or two of the Sharks stars away from him, in particular, sounds like a smart proposition.
McLellan explained some of the frustration after their Game 2 loss. He liked the idea of the players being mad but now wants them to turn the page.
“We as a group, as a team, likely won't be good enough to beat Chicago and frustration,” McLellan said. “We have to pick one or the other. If we end up trying to beat the frustration all the time, we won't have enough left in our tanks to beat Chicago.”
One enigma for San Jose is how they reacted after being scored on first in Game 2. McLellan said as much after the game and some players, including winger Ryane Clowe, echoed that sentiment on Thursday.
“I didn’t like how we responded,” Clowe said. “Throughout this whole playoffs we’ve never let anything like that get to us. Last game is probably the only game we responded in a wrong way.”
Maybe it was an aberration, but if the Hawks can take a lead early again, the United Center crowd may take care of the rest.