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Saturday, April 26, 2014
Blackhawks looking to close another series

By Scott Powers

Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have their first chance to close out their first-round series with the Blues on Sunday.
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s teams have a history of closing a series when given the opportunity during his tenure.

The Blackhawks have had 12 chances to finish a team in a playoff series over the past six seasons. Ten times, the Blackhawks have taken care of business. The only two instances where that didn’t happen were in a Game 7 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in the conference quarterfinals in 2011 and a Game 5 loss to the Canucks in the conference semifinals in 2010. The Blackhawks bounced back with a Game 6 win to knock off the Canucks in 2010.

Chicago will get its first chance to close out its first-round series with the St. Louis Blues on Sunday after taking a 3-2 series lead with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 5 on Friday.

Quenneville wasn’t sure why his teams had a history of success in such games, but he was happy they did.

"We got some guys who like to rise to challenges in big games and big settings, and I think they’ve proven that with their history,” Quenneville said at the United Center on Saturday. "I think they get excited in that situation. I think with that experience in these situations can be beneficial.”

The Blackhawks will have the advantage of playing at home Sunday afternoon. They are 13-2 at the United Center in the playoffs the last two seasons, defeating the Blues in Games 3 and 4 in Chicago.

“We don’t want to go back to St. Louis,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We’re going to try and do everything we can to finish it off. They have a great team over there, and they were close. They could’ve had both games here, and we could’ve had both games in the first two when we were there. It really could’ve gone either way so far. Hopefully tomorrow we can just release the handbrake and just go full force.”

The Blues have been dealing with similarities between this season’s first-round series and last season’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues went ahead 2-0 on the Kings, and the Kings won the final four games to eliminate the Blues. The Blues held a 2-0 advantage on the Blackhawks.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is trying to use that comparison to motivate his team for Game 6.

“We have a chance to write our own legacy,” Hitchcock said Saturday. “Everybody is probably writing, 'Here they go again. They're challenging the top teams, but can they get through the top teams?' Everybody is going to write that stuff. But we have a chance to write the message that you guys have to print, so it's in our control.

“It's not in 'what's going to get printed' control; it's in our control. And I want to see us embrace this. Yeah, we're knocking on the door and we're knocking hard, but we've got to push through. Just can't keep pushing up against the wall. We've got a real opportunity to push through the wall here. I want to see our players take advantage of this. I really want to see us play a hell of a hockey game. I want to see us really, really go at this thing, and like I said, I want to see us with a little more composure in the right areas. I think we're going to eliminate some of their scoring chances because of it and maybe even get a few more ourselves.”