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Chicago Blackhawks: Keys To Winning Game 7

By Nick Heupel
Apr 15, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) and St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) in action during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won the game 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) and St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) in action during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won the game 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Blackhawks Need To Step Back From Game 7 Intensity, Drama

Tonight’s Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs is no different than Game 7s of the past. The Chicago Blackhawks have played through seven games of a series four times in the past five playoff runs. They’ve lost and won, and they’ve learned a lot, but experience is not always a foundation for success.

Experience will help the Blackhawks focus, but it won’t be the reason they might win. Most of the guys on the Chicago bench have played in a Game 7, and they will be feeling the familiar jitters of nervous excitement. The best thing they can do is channel that energy into composed, smart play on the ice. Here are some keys for how they can make that happen.

Don’t Be Fooled

The St. Louis Blues know exactly what they’re getting into tonight at the Scottrade Center. It’s one game, one winner. Expect to see the Blues blasting ‘Hawks players with as many hits as possible. St. Louis forwards will try to smoke Corey Crawford out of net with a blaze of shots.

Look for explosive play from hot-shots like Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz and, of course, Vladimir Tarasenko. Even if Ken Hitchcock plays these guys less than some of the seasoned veterans, they will be dangerous — they are the difference-makers.

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chicago blackhawks /

Knowing the Blues will be hounding for a victory, the Blackhawks need to set aside the team resume. This is not the time to say, “Hey, we’ve done this before!”

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None of that matters: not the playoff history, not the Game 7 experience and not the Stanley Cups that have been won before. It’s just one game — this Game 7 is the only thing that matters for the Blackhawks right now. They must build from their recent victories over St. Louis.

Chicago found success against the Blues in Games 6 and 7 for a number of reasons. Everyone on the Chicago bench stepped up offensively. The Blackhawks made St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott squirm and flop all around the goalmouth. He looked uncomfortable, and he was unable to stop Chicago’s onslaught.

In Game 6, the Blackhawks swarmed St. Louis’ skaters, forcing turnovers that led to goals and neutralizing the Blues’ physical play. The ‘Hawks would do well to play with the same fervor when facing St. Louis again in Game 7.

Blackhawks Must Expect Ferocity And Unpredictability

In spite of their high-spirited momentum, the Blackhawks will have to play with determination, composure and resiliency. The pressure will be loud and unbearable, and focus will be critical. Leading up to the drop of the puck, there will be a lot of talk about which team is better, which team has more experience, which team has more impactful players and so on. It is all part of the Game 7 drama, and the Blackhawks players need to tune all of that out. Who cares which team is better?

Oakland Raiders legend Al Davis said it best. It’s Game 7. Just win, baby!

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