LOS ANGELES —
If there’s anything you want to know about the Chicago Blackhawks, you can just ask the Los Angeles Kings.
They know better than anyone what’s going on inside that dressing room.
And vice versa.
If you want to know what the Kings are thinking or how they’ll respond in certain situations, or whether or not they’re feeling pressure, talk to the Hawks.
For all of the contrasts in style between Los Angeles and Chicago, the Western Conference final remains a war of wills between rivals that might as well be playing against mirrors.
They’re basically the same team.
They each answer to a gruff, demanding coach. Both are rich with elite-level talent, character and leadership at the heart of a core that has been together for years. They’re each playoff tested and proven and boast a room full of championship rings. They’re big, they’re tough, they’re deep, they’re poised and experienced and not only do they know what it takes to win, every single one of them is willing to do it every night.
“Look through both lineups,” said winger Bryan Bickell, as the Hawks readied themselves for Game 3 on Saturday night at the Staples Center. “We’ve been through long runs and won Cups and know what it takes on every shift.
“The leadership on both sides goes a long way. We’re two confident teams. We both know that if we get down we can come back. We’re very similar.”
It certainly helps with their preparation because each side knows exactly what it’s up against: Itself, in a different coloured sweater.
“These are two teams that measure up to each other in a lot of ways,” said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. “They’re a team that’s in a lot of ways comparable to ours; great forwards, great defencemen, strong goaltending.
“They play a physical skilled game and we try and do the same. There are a lot of comparisons there. We always try and measure up to teams like that and feel pretty good about ourselves if we’re able to come out on top.”
So when you ask the Kings how the Blackhawks will respond to that 6-2 spanking in Game 2, they answer, simply, the exact same way the Kings would respond.
“They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, we’re well aware of how good a team they are and also how they’re going to be able to battle adversity,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “We put ourselves in their situation: If we had six unanswered goals against us how would we come out and want to play in Game 3?
“I think we’re well aware of how hard Game 3 is going to be.”
The notion that any momentum from Game 2 will carry over into Game 3 is quickly dismissed by both sides. Why? Because championship-calibre teams don’t live in the past, they fight for their future.
Again, the Kings ask themselves, What would we do?
“There are certain situations where it can carry over but I don’t see it happening in this series for either team,” said Brown, adding the Kings were able to ride momentum earlier in the playoffs.
“You kind of felt it against San Jose when the momentum was kind of swinging towards us, maybe pressure (on the Sharks).
“But I don’t foresee that here. Both teams have kind of been through the ringer for the last three, four, five years.”
“We have no doubt that this game didn’t effect them,” added Kings defenceman Drew Doughty. “Mentally they’re one of the strongest teams in the league. They’re a great team and they’ve proven that. They know what they have to do to play well against us. We know they’re not going to shy away.”
So who wins when a pair of virtually identical opponents square off? The Corsi nerds aren’t going to like this, but Doughty, an Olympic gold medallist and Stanley Cup champion, says it comes down to intangibles.
“I think it’s just the team that wants it more. Both teams want it so bad, obviously, and the coaches always prepare us very well, then it just comes down to heart.
“Whoever is going to work harder for that one inch.”
HAWKS FEELING MOTIVATED
The Chicago Blackhawks are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.
They spent all day Thursday grinding their teeth over what happened to them in Game 2 and didn’t seem like they were over it one bit when they reported to practice Friday afternoon.
“(Anger) can be a good thing, as long as you channel it in the right way, especially as players,” said Patrick Kane. “It’s always good to get pissed off a little bit and be upset about what transpired the other night.
“Sometimes you let it sink in instead of moving on too quickly. Let it sink in your stomach a little bit and use that as motivation for the next game.”
They still believe they handed Game 2 to the Kings by losing focus and in a series that promises to be as tight as this one, that can’t happen.
“I think we played good for two periods, then we took a couple penalties and lost the momentum,” said winger Bryan Bickell. “But I think the practice today and the atmosphere on the way here were pretty good.
“We kind of have that bitter taste and we’re excited about Game 3.”