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'Comeback Hawks' can deal with Game 1 defeat

Monday, 05.18.2009 / 9:28 AM / Conference Finals: Detroit vs. Chicago

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"We move on. I think our team has responded to the different challenges through this process. But we knew we've got to be way more effective in all aspects and areas of our game because they're dangerous in a lot of ways. But we've got to be way better."
-- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville

DETROIT -- The common thought is the team winning Game 1 of a playoff series usually has the best chance of winning the series.

The numbers seem to bear that out -- in 12 playoff series this postseason, the Game 1 winner has won seven times (58.3 percent).

The Chicago Blackhawks, though, have defied that number, to the point where you can't really judge anything from their series-opening result.

In the first round, the Blackhawks had home-ice advantage and beat Calgary in the first two games. When the series moved to Calgary, though, the Blackhawks dropped two straight, before recovering to win the series in six games.

In the second round, Chicago dropped Game 1 in Vancouver, but rebounded to win Game 2, and went on to win the series in six games.

So while trying to get off to a good start is big, one game doesn't make or break the Blackhawks.

"We move on," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think our team has responded to the different challenges through this process. But we knew we've got to be way more effective in all aspects and areas of our game because they're dangerous in a lot of ways. But we've got to be way better."

That starts with sticking to their game plan, rather than getting sucked into trying to match Detroit's style.

"Against these guys, you can't play their style," said forward Adam Burish, who scored the first goal of Game 1. "I think that sometimes when you're playing against them you see all the cute plays they make and the way they can snap it around, and you try to do that, too; guys try to make those same kind of plays and you can't. You can't play their style. If you want to be good against these guys you have to play your own game."

While they were charged with just one giveaway, the Red Wings had 11 takeaways, and Detroit dominated for long stretches in puck-possession time.

"I think when we do have the puck, we've got to make sure that we want to keep it and support it," Quenneville said. "I think there's respect that we've got to have when we're in vulnerable areas with the puck, but have confidence to make a play and try to get through it. … I just think our overall puck-possession game has to be better. We lost the puck too many times, particularly in the second."

Getting more out of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane also would be a good thing. The Blackhawks' young stars have combined for 12 goals and 22 points in the playoffs, but in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Red Wings, they combined for just three shots -- all by Toews.

"Maybe just be more aggressive and be a little smarter with the puck sometimes," Toews said. "We tried to force plays that aren't there and sometimes when we try to make things happen like that, they're going to stall you and come back with the puck and it's going to be a while before you get it back. I think against this team you really have to bear down on every single shift and really take advantage of the times you have the puck and for the both of us, we have to get that spark back. Just play with more of an edge and know we've got to make a bigger difference in the offensive zone."

While the players were understandably down after the loss, they were also able to find some positives in their effort.

"It's easily correctable," Burish said of the Game 1 mistakes.

"It's a seven-game series," forward Ben Eager added. "Their job is to win their two home games, we're here to win one. … We'll come with a better effort and we'll be prepared."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.


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