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Blackhawks aim for improvement at home

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO – They're up two games to none on the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals, they're feeling good and now the Blackhawks must face their biggest detriment thus far in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The next two games are on home ice at the United Center, starting with Friday's Game 3 (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC. RDS). But the way they've been playing, maybe that's not such a great thing.
In sharp contrast to their 7-1 road record, the Hawks are just 3-3 at home in the playoffs. Tuesday night's 4-2 win at HP Pavilion tied an NHL record of seven straight road playoff wins. Now the issue is figuring out the reason for such a stark difference.
"We spent a lot of time with each other on the road," captain Jonathan Toews said upon the team's return home on Wednesday. "We're having fun playing hockey, whether it's hanging out in the hotel or going for dinner. We've done a lot of bonding as a team and it's showing on the ice. We're having fun."
`Not quite as much fun at home, though. At home they don't stay together away from the rink, don't dine together as a team and there aren't video game contests to keep the on-ice chemistry going off of it.
Could it really be as simple as that?
Not entirely, but that is a part of it according to Toews and fellow star forward Patrick Kane.
"On the road, it's a little bit different," Kane said. "There's really no distractions. Everyone's with each other. You're all hanging out with your teammates. It's been really good for us as far as that's concerned, especially the way our team is. We really bond together really well. We're a young team. Everyone hangs out with each other."
They also like hearing their fans joyously singing the chorus of "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis after every goal they score at home. Hearing the song blare through the United Center is a treat for the Hawks -- but the way they've tried to get it done in the playoffs needs to change.
The Hawks say they tend to get a little too cute at home, rather than simply throwing pucks at the net and scrapping for rebounds the way they do on the road. That's why they're intent on doing more of the latter in Games 3 and 4 -- hoping to bring the ear-splitting decibel level that rocks the United Center during the national anthem to the game itself.
"We know how we want to play at home," Kane said. "Keep it simple, not give too big of a show. Keep (fans) in the game right off the hop. Sometimes I think at home, whether it's the national anthem or just playing in front of a big crowd, you want to put on a show for them. That's not necessarily what we have to do. The biggest thing is playing a simple game like we have on the road."
They also have the regular season to emulate.
The Hawks won 29 games on home ice this season while losing just eight in regulation. That's something they are already citing as they attempt to make the Madhouse on Madison a little less maddening for themselves and their fans.
"Our home record was great," center Dave Bolland said. "I think if we bring it back, just like we played in the regular season, we'll do well."

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