Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks are Playing Themselves

By Tim Lively
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Jun 10, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) chases the puck with Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula (51) in the third period in game four of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

After stealing home ice advantage from the Tampa Bay Lightning only to give it right back in Game 3 upon their return to sweet home Chicago, the Hawks evened the series at 2-2 with a yet another 2-1 victory last Wednesday night. What was once a best of seven series is now a best of three. Have the Hawks been here before? Yes, but who cares?

As Al Pacino once over acted, life’s a game of inches. Well if Marian Hossa’s flubbed empty-netter in Game 3 is any indication, for our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals is a series of millimeters, and here’s the reason why:

Everyone is toting the Blackhawks experience as giving them the edge, and while being in Finals twice in the past two years is certainly a benefit, it’s far from the major advantage that a good amount of people are selling it as.

During the Stanley Cup Finals of 2010 and 2013, the Blackhawks took on teams in the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins that were modeled in the old-school system of the NHL: a mixed balance of grit, determination, and talent. Their rosters comprised of players from different walks and different teams that had culminated at the right time.

The Blackhawks on the other hand were young up-and-comers that played as a cohesive unit in a flash and dash style for a few years at that point. Yes they had some star power but nothing proven in 2010, and nothing confirmed in 2013. More importantly, the Blackhawks strictly adhered to their style of play no matter what their opponent threw at them. In the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, by Game 5, there were contests that had been decided by more than one goal, which is indicative of a mismatch of talent types and playing style, albeit slight, but a mismatch nonetheless.

With the Hawks and Lightning  however, every single game thus far has been determined by a single goal. This is indicative of not only equally matched teams, but teams that are nearly identically talented; not to mention Hawks and Lightning’s see-saw momentum changes throughout each game in the series. In other words, the Lightning are not the 2010 Flyers or 2013 Bruins…

In 2010 and to a lesser extent in 2013, the Hawks’ modus operandi was on of the first in the next generation of winning formulas for hockey teams. For the most part, the Flyers and Bruins were some of the last remnants of the NHL’s old guard.

Now that the Blackhawks have been labeled as Stanley Cup contenders for the better part of five years now, their once cutting edge style is as cutting anymore. Enter the Tampa Bay Lighting.

The Lightning have been compared to the Blackhawks of 2009, and more accurate this comparison could not be. The Lightning are know for their speed and cohesiveness (who names a line the Triplets?). That being said, the Hawks are now faced with a wholly new opponent in this latest tour in the Finals: their former selves.

This may sound like something out of EA Sports, but if you’ve ever read any Greek myth, watched any Star Wars movie, or have played any Legend of Zelda game, you know you’re greatest opponent is a manifestation of yourself: all your strengths and all you weaknesses.

With the Hawks and Lightning  however, every single game thus far has been determined by a single goal. This is indicative of not only equally matched teams, but teams that are nearly identically talented; not to mention Hawks and Lightning’s see-saw momentum changes throughout each game in the series. In other words, the Lightning are not the 2010 Flyers or 2013 Bruins…

Thus, the Hawks are now tasked with beating an opponent that is their near image, so the question remains, is how can this be accomplished?

The answer goes back to that game of millimeters: the Hawks need to keep their margins of error at a minimum. They need to remember all those seemingly minor errors and mental lapses they exploited against the Flyers in 2010 and the Bruins in 2013, and preventively close those windows of opportunity for the Lightning.

This is where the Hawks’ experience will truly prove to give them the edge. No one likes facing themselves, but it’s part of the journey to becoming a champion.

FOR THE DAGGER!

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