The Blackhawks are pretty steamed three games into a heated Western Conference Semifinal series against the rival Detroit Red Wings, but they're also trailing 2-1 after losing 3-1 in Game 3 on Monday.
It was filled with hard hits, post-whistle skirmishes and lots of chirping, particularly between Chicago's Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw and Detroit's Daniel Cleary and Brendan Smith. Afterward, some wondered if the Red Wings successfully are throwing off the Blackhawks by getting under their skin.
The Blackhawks, however, said it's just the opposite.
"I don't think it was frustration," veteran Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival said. "I think it was just more showing that, you know, we are not going to [just] take everything and we are going to be battling. It wasn't frustration. It was just more showing that we are there and we are going to be there and we are going to be fighting."
The sequence he was asked about happened near the end of the game, when Bickell cross-checked Cleary hard in the back three times during a scramble in front of the net. Cleary took exception, more words were exchanged, and Bickell headed to the penalty box for the remaining few seconds of the game.
Afterward, in an on NBC Sports Network, Cleary was asked about the confrontation with Bickell. His face nearly was as red as his jersey, but he calmly explained it's all part of playoff hockey, also saying he and Bickell probably "wouldn't be exchanging Christmas cards anytime soon."
Cleary got worked up earlier in the game when Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook gave him a shove while he charged to the net, sending him face-first into the crossbar. Duncan Keith then pushed over the net toward the fallen Cleary and shoved it at him.
This started as a decades-old rivalry series based on mutual respect and skill, but quickly has become one about grit, toughness and inflicting pain. It's similar to other Stanley Cup Playoff series that have transpired recently, but it also merits the question: Is an angry bunch of Blackhawks good or bad for their chances to win?
Quenneville sounded pretty sure of the answer when meeting with the media Tuesday at United Center.
"Absolutely," he said, when asked if playing angry now would be good for his team. "I thought we got the juices at the level that are going to be necessary going forward. I thought going into the game, they got our attention in Game 2 and [Game 3] was the way we had to compete. Some bounces didn't go our way, but certainly that's what's going to be necessary going forward."
"I think everybody is kind of, not happy, with the way we've played and I think it's a good thing," he said. "It can give us a boost of energy. Playing with a little bit of anger going forward, you know, is not a bad thing. I think it's going to help us [going] into Game 4. We are only down 2-1 … it's not the end of the world. We are playing [a] good opponent, [but] it's not over yet."
The extracurricular stuff probably has just started, in fact. The trick, however, is not getting penalized for taking the kind of stand Rozsival mentioned.
Neither team scored on the combined nine power plays in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena, but giving either team an opportunity on the man-advantage -- with as much offensive firepower as the sides have -- could be a costly mistake.
"Just playing like that doesn't give us the green light to take unnecessary or undisciplined penalties," Quenneville said. "There's always a discipline that goes behind everything we talk about …"
In Game 3, however, the Blackhawks did take a couple of undisciplined penalties while reacting to things the Red Wings did. Despite being 29-for-29 on the penalty kill in the playoffs, those kinds of infractions are exactly what the Blackhawks have to avoid in Game 4 Thursday in Detroit (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).
"It's always a fine line not to get penalties and play on the edge," Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "We've had really good penalty killing so far in these playoffs, but we know they have a lot of skilled players who can make a difference in a game if we give them too many power plays. It's a fine line there, but you've got to play tough."