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Blackhawks show no signs of nervousness

Tuesday, 05.19.2009 / 1:37 PM / Conference Finals: Detroit vs. Chicago

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"Obviously you don't want to go back down 2-0 against arguably the best team in the League. You need a split here. We went into Vancouver (in the second round) and that's what we wanted -- we lost Game 1 and we wanted to split and that's what we did."
-- Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg

DETROIT -- Already down a game going into Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS) against the Detroit Red Wings, you would think there would be some nervous players in the Chicago Blackhawks' dressing room.

You would be wrong.

That was best exemplified when rookie center Colin Fraser walked to his stall, and saw over his nameplate a piece of tape with the word "Mario" written on it. Apparently Fraser is the worst player on the team in Super Mario Kart for the Nintendo Wii, and his teammates felt like letting him know about it.

No one volunteered to take credit for the prank, which drew a number of reporters to Fraser for the first time this postseason, but teammate Patrick Sharp casually mentioned he might have had something to do with it.

Rather than panic, an air of confidence remained in the Chicago room.

"We're a pretty loose team," Sharp said. "We don't like to get too uptight for games, whether we're on a winning streak or a losing streak. We've done it all year long and there's no reason to tighten up now."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said it was just the response he was hoping for from his young squad.

"We didn't want to dramatically change our approach going into games starting the playoffs," he said. "It's been a new experience for everyone. We've got a lot of young guys. How we feel after games, it's a new day, it's a fresh attitude, and our approach has been very consistent in the playoffs."

They may be loose, but they're still focused on the task at hand, which is winning Game 2 Tuesday night and earning a split before the series heads to Chicago for Games 3 and 4.

"Obviously you don't want to go back down 2-0 against arguably the best team in the League," forward Kris Versteeg said. "You need a split here. We went into Vancouver (in the second round) and that's what we wanted -- we lost Game 1 and we wanted to split and that's what we did."

Despite all the things that went wrong in Game 1, the Blackhawks still feel they can make this a long series.

"We're pretty confident in what we can do," Sharp said. "We've played Detroit enough times over the years to know what kind of team they have. We know it's a tough task, but we feel we can win. Our confidence is a big issue and it's going to help us."

Playing keep-away --
So much of what makes the Detroit Red Wings so good is their dominance in time of possession with the puck. The way the Wings play, they make the ice seem tilted so that everything flows into the other team's end.

The Blackhawks' goal for Game 2 is to level the playing surface by evening out their time with the puck.

The Blackhawks admitted they tried to match the Red Wings by playing Detroit's style in Game 1, which is a recipe for disaster.

"When you try to take them 1-on-1, they're a great skating team and they're tough to beat like that," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews told NHL.com. "Definitely not the way we want to do it."

That style of play led to 11 Detroit takeaways in Game 1, a number that must come down drastically for Chicago to be successful.

"They really came out and pressured us hard in areas where they could get the puck back," Kris Versteeg said. "We just have to keep it simple. We have to go out there, we've got to play our game. We can't play into their hands. I think if we go out there and do our thing we'll be successful."

Chicago Blackhawks Playoff GearTheir thing has to be better puck management.

"I don't think we necessarily need to manage the puck to the length or quality they can handle it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think we need to still have a strong checking mentality to try to nullify and prevent them from high-quality stuff. I still think that when we do have it, we have to manage it well, protect it better, particularly late in shifts we have to put it into good areas."

Let's get physical --
One of the Blackhawks' goals during the postseason was to match other teams' physical play, and it's something they want to continue against the Red Wings.

After finishing 22nd in the regular season with 1,520 hits, Chicago is fourth in the postseason with 388 hits, including 36 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

"We played pretty physical for a team that people don't think we're very physical," Versteeg said. "We threw a lot of hits out there."

The Blackhawks were happy with the number of hits and would have liked to make more contact, but as defenseman Brent Seabrook said, "You guys go out there and try to hit them. They're a pretty fast, quick team."
We played pretty physical for a team that people don't think we're very physical. We threw a lot of hits out there.." -- Kris Versteeg
Seabrook, who had five hits in Game 1 and is second on the team with 50 in the postseason, said being physical is important, but so is being smart about it.

"We're trying to do it, but at the same time we can't be running around, jumping out of the play, taking ourselves away from it," said Seabrook, "because they have two other guys coming with speed trying to put it in the back of the net and that's usually what happens when you're screwing around trying to make big hits."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com
Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff