CHICAGO – Somewhat overlooked in Vancouver's sound thrashing of the Blackhawks in Game 3 of their Western Conference Semifinal series was how that route was mapped.
Yes, plenty of attention has been paid to Chicago's stretch passes unfulfilled, inability to rush the net, and overall ineffectual offensive attack, all of which are effects of the Canucks' staunch, methodical "D."
But another angle has emerged prior to Thursday's Game 4 in Chicago (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS). Call it "anger management."
While an undermanned Vancouver defense, a defense that will be without Sami Salo for Game 4, skated into the United Center Tuesday with chin up and fists balled, it found few Blackhawks willing to fight back. There's a growing perception in the Canucks dressing room that the Blackhawks are so confident they can outplay them that Chicago doesn't have to bother to outwork them. True or not, the message has been received by the Blackhawks.
"We didn't do many of the little things necessary (in Game 3) to win in the playoffs," defenseman Brian Campbell said after Thursday's morning skate. "Why or how that happened isn't important now. We have to outplay and outwork Vancouver if we want to head back (to Vancouver) tied up."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville certainly hasn't directed his club to focus more on finesse play, but cautioned that a balance needs be struck between physical and skill work.
"We can't be drawn into an aggressive, percentage game, the way Vancouver likes to play," Quenneville said. "At the same time, we have to meet and beat them in every aspect and use some targeted aggression to keep them on their heels. They have theirs (strategies), we have ours, and in order to win we'll need to be more successful at ours than they are at theirs."
Quenneville acknowledged that early penalties have been the bane of the Blackhawks so far in the series, and if the club has hopes of getting off to a fast start Thursday, blind aggression cannot be part of the package.
"The penalty (Dustin Byfuglien's goalkeeper interference at 2:45) in the first changed the complexion of the game right away," he said. "That call could have been argued. We're going to continue to chip away, playing our game, and hope the players on the ice determine the outcome."
Quenneville and several Blackhawks noted that for all the talk about Chicago coming out less aggressively than Vancouver in Game 3, the club still recorded almost double the hits (35-20) of their opponent, including nine from human hand grenade Troy Brouwer and eight from Byfuglien.
Ben Eager, never one to stray from a tussle, was notably quiet in Game 3, recording a mere two hits in 9:11 of ineffectual play. The bullish Blackhawk knows that his team needs a different effort from him on his shifts tonight, but stopped short of promising a throwdown.
"To be honest, there hasn't been a lot of talk (in the dressing room) about fighting," he said. "We can play and beat Vancouver with our play on the ice. But I'm sure that if the situation calls for it, we'll be fighting. We're in front of our home crowd, and we're going to give them a show."