-- Just a week ago, the Blackhawks flew back into Chicago from Vancouver, coming off a big Game 2 win that most sensed would swing the series in their favor.
But just as everyone rushed to count the injured and overmatched Canucks out, the visitors skated in and cruised to the most dominating win of this semifinal series, a 3-1 victory in Game 3 that appeared to completely stun the home club.
As much as the Blackhawks seized back control of their destiny with their stirring 4-2 win on Saturday, they're careful to avoid the pratfalls that trapped them the last time they rode into town fat and sassy.
"Whether up or down, we've never thought this would be a short series," forward Andrew Ladd
said prior to Monday night's pivotal Game 6 (9 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS). "Vancouver has a great team, and we know those guys are going to come after us tonight."
Aside from acknowledging he'd ride the hot hand and find more ice time for power forward Dustin Byfuglien
, who's proven to be Chicago's best all-around player in the series, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville
didn't anticipate switching much up for Monday's game.
"We thought we were due for some turns of fortune in this series, including grabbing a lead and playing a clean first period," he said. "Those things came together for us in Game 5 and we're just looking to keep everything going here at home. Nobody [is going to] get too high or too low."
Undoubtedly, Vancouver's Game 3 thrashing of the Blackhawks illuminates what might otherwise be a dim outlook, skating in front of a rabid crowd that hasn't seen Chicago reach the final four in more than a decade. But while young, the Hawks are a cautious and contemplative group; it appears unlikely that the Canucks will sneak up on them again in their own building.
"We're not guaranteed anything," Byfuglien said. "They're not giving up. We can't afford to take them lightly. For sure, we don't want to go back to Vancouver.
"We want to end this, tonight."