CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane looked every bit the part of what many associate the Chicago Blackhawks to be.
Surrounded by a horde of reporters, microphones and TV cameras inside the Blackhawks locker room on Saturday afternoon, Kane wore a Yankees ball cap backward as he breezed through questions meant to make him squirm -- or at least become introspective about this suddenly-knotted Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers.
He was a stereotype of the Hawks' personality -- young, brash and carefree -- which to this point seems to be missing. Standing there, Kane's mullet-coiffed, hat-backward look felt a little out of place. During two straight Flyers wins at the Wachovia Center, Philly's feisty disposition was like looking in the mirror for Chicago -- right down to the snow showers that coated Antti Niemi each game.
That little post-whistle move, of course, was just one of the many ways the Hawks made Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo's skin crawl in the Western Conference Semifinals. Relentless trash talking was another. Now it's the Hawks who must respond to similar tactics, starting with Sunday night's Game 5 at United Center (8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS).
"That's probably how they're playing right now, to be honest with you," Kane said, when asked if the Hawks need to play with more of an edge in this series. "They're making us take some bad penalties and that's pretty much what we did to Vancouver. So, yeah, you want to play like that -- but you (also) have to make sure you're not taking bad penalties."
The Canucks weren't able to avoid that trap against Chicago. After turning the other cheek in the first two games, they came unhinged in Game 3 at GM Place -- taking uncharacteristic penalties and playing right into the Hawks' hands. That's exactly what Philly is doing now, with fairly good success.
The Flyers have benefitted from a parade of Hawks heading to the penalty box, with at least a few of the calls the result of retaliation. Philly has enjoyed 16 power plays to nine for Chicago, which has the Hawks preaching discipline while at the same time becoming more aggressive in puck battles.
"I can't really comment on the referees, but obviously we have to be more careful with our sticks and those careless penalties -- especially in the offensive zone," said Hawks forward Tomas Kopecky, whose high-sticking penalty in the first period of Game 4 led to Philly's first goal. "We have to avoid them. Right off the hop we have to be ready to go. Our determination has got to show."
At least as much as it showed on Saturday during interviews.
"Are they calling it tight?" forward Andrew Ladd asked sarcastically on Saturday, an apparent reference to the penalty tallies on each side. "It's the way it is. You can't control that. We've got to work harder in here to get those opportunities and those power plays, and that's our fault that we're not doing that so far. We'll do that tomorrow."
They'll also have to recapture the somewhat cocky, punkish personality which helped get them to this point. It won't be easy, considering the Flyers are a supremely confident bunch, but Ladd said the first step is making a big mental readjustment before Game 5.
"Our attitude has to be a lot better in terms of playing with a little bit of an edge and getting mad in the right areas," said Ladd, who returned to the lineup for the first time since being injured in the series-clincher against San Jose. "We don't want to be as undisciplined as we have been so far, but you know … we've got to work to get to the areas that we need to get to, and that's going to take a little bit of edge."