LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks have played 30 Stanley Cup Playoff games since they've faced a 3-1 series deficit. They also won and celebrated their second Stanley Cup in four seasons during that time.
Yet they haven't forgotten the hollow feeling they felt in the second round last season after dropping Game 4 to the underdog Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. They remember the pit of fear in their stomachs when they boarded the plane for a short flight home and an uncertain future after being outscored 9-2 in three straight losses.
They also remember how great it felt to beat the odds, to rediscover their game and to win the series. It became a defining moment in their drive to the 2013 championship, a gut-check moment, if you will.
Now those memories will be dredged up again because the Blackhawks are in the same hole against the Los Angeles Kings. Just like against Detroit, Chicago won the first game in this Western Conference Final, but has been outclassed for the past three games, losing by a combined score of 15-5 to arrive at the brink of elimination. That run was capped Monday when the Kings scored the first four goals of Game 4, a 5-2 victory at Staples Center.
"It wouldn't be worth winning the Stanley Cup without going through adversity," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "I don't think any team that gets this far or ends up winning it, goes through without having to deal with adversity, and this is our chance to do it."
Make no mistake, the odds are long. This is not the same Kings team the Blackhawks demolished in five games in last year's Western Conference Final after surviving that scare from the Red Wings.
The Kings are better, they are deeper and they are healthier. They, too, have recently won the Stanley Cup, so they have the mark of champions.
But the Blackhawks believe these Kings can still be had.
It won't all be done Wednesday in Game 5 at the United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), but the journey must begin there.
"That was a special feeling last year when we came back from 3-1 [against Detroit] and were able to win it in seven games in overtime," Chicago forward Patrick Kane said. "Who knows? That's probably what it's going to take to try and get back there. But I think we all said it in here you can't really think about what happened the first four games. Now you've got to make sure you're ready for Game 5 and focus in on that game solely to try and win that one and see what happens after that one."
To win Game 5, the Blackhawks will have to be better. It would be nice to get the lead and hold it, like the Kings did in Game 4. It would be beneficial to get a power-play goal or two after struggling to generate with the man-advantage in the first four games. The Kings power-play unit must be slowed down. It has scored on five of its past eight tries.
Chicago's coaches are already working on ways to do all those things. The players will listen and follow the game plan which is devised from that study, but they know from experience the key to coming back is in the mindset. The players remember the final three games were about winning one battle after another. Win a shift. Win a special-teams battle. Win a period. Win a game. Repeat until the mission is accomplished.
"We've got to give it everything and nothing less," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "Credit that team, they're a good team, but we know we've got more. We know that there's something else we can bring to the table. We've just got to do some little things here and there to make ourselves feel good and get that confidence, get that swagger back to our game.
"We've got to find a way to get those bounces and get things going our way. We'll work ourselves out of it."
Author: Shawn Roarke | Director, Editorial