The sellout crowd that will show up at the United Center on Sunday afternoon will be wondering which Blackhawks club shows up.
Lost in the thrills, spills, controversies, and lingering resentments of Friday night's Game 3 between Chicago and Detroit was the fact that the Blackhawks managed to be three different teams, all in one game.
The Hawks came out of the dressing room playing like world-beaters, grabbing a 3-0 lead less than 21 minutes into the game. But a run of three consecutive penalties gave Detroit a spark, and the Wings got three goals from their defense late in the second period to tie the game and send the Hawks to the locker room looking like a beaten team.
But with backup goaltender Cristobal Huet stepping in for injured starter Nikolai Khabibulin in the third period, the Blackhawks regained their composure, had the better chances in the final minutes of regulation, and needed just 1:52 of OT to win the game on a goal by Patrick Sharp
Part of the challenge for coach Joel Quenneville in the short interim before Game 4 was figuring out how to eliminate the Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of his team for Sunday.
"That second period was tough," Quenneville said after Chicago’s Saturday practice. "It was a terrible combination of penalties, poor execution … even the coaching took a little vacation." Quenneville had said he wanted to “kick himself in the butt” for not calling his timeout when Detroit scored to make it 3-2.
Still, the Hawks enter Sunday's game with the chance to get even and turn the series into a best-of-3. Quenneville seemed confident that the positives that he saw in Game 3 would carry over to Sunday.
"In some ways, (Detroit) is a lot more dangerous when they're down, with all the firepower they can fuel a comeback with," Quenneville said. "They have a number of guys over there who can make plays. I don't want to be too quick to condemn our guys for 'giving' something away when it was pretty clear Detroit was out there executing and clawing back into it."
Sharp shares his coach’s optimistic outlook and feels that Friday's win fuels momentum into Sunday.
"We're still a young team, but we're learning with each step," he said. "A year ago, or even a few weeks ago, (Detroit's comeback) might have created confusion and killed our confidence. But that's not how we reacted. We stuck to our game plan. We didn't want to carry over any bad feeling into the third period, and we managed to avoid doing that."
Defenseman Brian Campbell, one of the most outspoken Hawks regarding the crushing hit by Nicklas Kronwall on Martin Havlat in the first period on Friday, praised his team’s composure and found confidence in its focus.
"We needed to stay calm in two important junctures, after the hit and after surrendering three goals so quickly," he said. "In the regular season, we might not have reacted the same way, but (Friday) we focused on retaliating in the right ways, like finishing our checks. We knew there was too much to lose getting unhinged down 2-0 (in the series), and we didn’t. That’s a huge plus moving forward."
Author: Brett Ballantini | NHL.com Correspondent