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Blackhawks' play at United Center taking wind out of home fans

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO -- After 11 games in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, people are starting to wonder if the Blackhawks still enjoy playing in the Windy City.
Or do they enjoy it too much?
Maybe they get swept away by the deafening fan response to the national anthem and try too hard to score first. Maybe the United Center's ice -- which has been complained about by players from the Blackhawks and visiting teams -- isn't as conducive to the Hawks' up-tempo pace. Maybe they just get too fancy at home.
Whatever the reason, the stats are telling. After Sunday's 4-1 home loss to Vancouver in Game 5 of their Western Conference Semifinal series, the Hawks are just 3-3 at the United Center this postseason. Away from the building they are 4-1, with the only loss coming at Nashville in Game 3 of that quarterfinal series -- which was clinched on the road.
Why are the Hawks not playing as well at the "Madhouse on Madison" as they do elsewhere? It has become a maddening question as the series shifts to Vancouver's GM Place Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) with the Hawks still up 3-2.

"When we get things going, get our momentum going in our own building, we play great hockey. (We) just didn't really do anything to get the crowd behind us tonight." -- Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews

"I have no idea what reason could be there," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said Sunday night. "When we get things going, get our momentum going in our own building, we play great hockey. (We) just didn't really do anything to get the crowd behind us tonight."
Maybe they tried to do too much, as was suggested by some of Toews' teammates and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.
"We had some excitement in the building that we didn't take advantage of," Quenneville said. "We were on the receiving end. (It) certainly wasn't the start we were looking for. We were looking for a little bit more than was out there. I think we were looking for pretty plays instead of simplicity."
In retrospect, maybe the seemingly carefree attitude at the conclusion of Sunday's morning skate was a sign of what Quenneville was talking about.  On the ice, several Hawks players looked like kids at recess. A few minutes later in the dressing room, they said all the right things about the importance of Game 5, but some wondered if the Hawks were taking the game seriously enough.
Then the visiting Canucks had their way almost all game long. Quenneville said preparation -- mental or otherwise -- wasn't the problem. Trying to get too perfect on offense was, which was something veteran center John Madden singled out.
"The only thing I can think of is, you play on the road (and) you simplify your game," said Madden, who won two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. "You know you're not getting last (line) change. You know that you have to put pucks really deep in order to make a (line) change and guys are just bearing down a little bit more in certain situations, I guess. We gave up two quick goals (Sunday) and never really got the crowd into it."
The good news is the Hawks still are just a game away from closing the series and the next game is on the road -- where they looked good downing the Canucks in Games 3 and 4 last week. Also, if needed, Game 7 would be at the United Center on Thursday, which would provide another opportunity to play well at home.
"It's the same sheet of ice, the same dimensions out there," Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. "Maybe (we're) a little grittier on the road and not as fancy, which we need to correct going forward. We've had a great home record all season. We just tried to press a little too much in some areas."
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