While not wanting to stifle the creativity and aggressiveness that have marked his club and have fueled this run to the Western Conference Finals, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is counting on his team to play the remainder of this series a touch closer to the vest.
The Blackhawks have played their best while sticking to an aggressive, yet focused, plan. The improvement the team showed in Game 2 at Detroit was largely due to increased discipline and utter devotion to putting the puck on net. When the focus flags, however ...
"Surrendering goals on plays that start at our offensive blue line is no way to beat the Detroit Red Wings," Quenneville said during Wednesday's media session, which included Samuel Pahlsson and Andrew Ladd. "We turned the puck over and all three turnovers ended up in our net."
Detroit's ability to pounce on mistakes has proven fatal for the Blackhawks so far. Quenneville indicated that at full strength, playing focused and clean, he couldn't be happier with his team's effort in Detroit. But mishaps in Game 2 as simple as Dan Cleary's poke at Brent Seabrook that led to a solo breakaway goal and Mikael Samuelsson's steal from Brian Campbell that ended in a three-man rush and game-winner are proving the difference in the series.
Quenneville cancelled the practice scheduled for Wednesday at the United Center, as much a mental health break as a physical one. Still, the injury bug, barely nibbling at Chicago through the first two playoff series, is taking a bite out of two key Hawks: Martin Havlat, battling a leg injury suffered in Game 1, and Duncan Keith, who sounded hoarse during the first two games of the series and has seen his ironman ice time drop behind that of fellow defensemen Seabrook and Campbell.
"Staying away today made sense to me," Quenneville said. "We'll have another good day of practice heading into Friday."
Quenneville also said he sensed that spirits were still strong in his dressing room, a sentiment echoed by Ladd, who's been fighting for his life in front of the Detroit net and whose efforts there have forced more action into the crease.
"No one wanted to come back (to Chicago) down two games," Ladd said. "But we have to answer with wins in our building, and that starts on Friday. There's going to be a lot of excitement here, and we can't wait."