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Hawks treating Game 6 like an elimination game

06/08/2010 10:52 PM

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-- If Chicago wins Wednesday's Game 6, the Blackhawks will be Stanley Cup champions.

If they lose Wednesday night to Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center, the outlook is nowhere near as rosy -- suddenly, they would face a winner-take-all Game 7 Friday night in Chicago, a proposition nobody on the Blackhawks even wants to contemplate.

"You know you want to take care of business when you can," veteran center John Madden. "You don't want to leave the chance for a Game 7. We have an opportunity tomorrow. All I can say is we have to be focused on that opportunity and not look at having another game to go to. You have to take care of business and treat it like it's an elimination game."

By his own account, Madden has not spoken much to the team since he arrived in Chicago this summer. He said saying he only talks when things are going bad for the team, and that has left him silent for long stretches of the season. But he might want to take a few minutes during the course of the next 24 hours to speak up and share his Game 6 experience with the Hawks.

In his sophomore season, his New Jersey Devils had the Colorado Avalanche on the ropes after winning Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in Colorado to break a 2-2 deadlock in the series. One more win and New Jersey would have defended the title won in 2000.

However, the Devils lost Game 6 at home. Long afterward, more than one player admitted the team was not properly focused and got caught thinking about the trophy that was in the bowel of Continental Airlines Arena, the team's home at the time. Clearly, they were ready to renew acquaintances with the most famous trophy in all of sports.

Instead, they were forced to play a Game 7, a game they ended up losing. To a man, the members of the 2001 Devils still regret kicking away Game 6 more than the winner-take-all game back in Denver, feeling that it took some of the luster off the previous year's championship.

Sure, Madden won a Game 7 in 2003 in the same exact scenario as New Jersey rebounded from a painful Game 6 loss to Anaheim. But that wasn't easy by any means, adding some unnecessary stress to the occasion.

Forward Andrew Ladd can also attest to the importance of winning Game 6. As a rookie with Carolina in 2006, he was ready to party with the Stanley Cup in Edmonton when Carolina came into town holding a 3-2 lead in the series. Instead, the Oilers played their best game of the series and forced a Game 7 back in Raleigh. 

"It was probably the longest flight I've ever been on heading back to Carolina," Ladd said.

Ironically, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette was the coach of that Carolina team. He vividly remembers the loss Game 6 loss to Edmonton.

"It was nauseating," Laviolette said Tuesday. "I went back to the hotel room in Edmonton and I almost threw up -- to be close, to have an opportunity …"

Laviolette couldn't even finish the thought the loss stung so badly -- even though his team found a way to win Game 7.

Now the Flyers want to rebound from a Game 5 in which they were outclassed in every facet of the game while losing 7-4. They want to make the Blackhawks feel the unease that made Laviolette sick to his stomach; feel the regret that still haunts Madden.

It will be up to Chicago to understand that Philadelphia will play its best game of the series in an attempt to extend it to a do-or-die Game 7, as well as deny the Blackhawks the opportunity to party with the Stanley Cup at the Wachovia Center.

Chicago better not just understand. It better respond appropriately to seize the first opportunity to win the Cup, meaning Friday would likely be about a parade instead of a Game 7.

"The one thing about that everybody keeps forgetting is what we did in Game 5, we have to go out and do it in Game 6," Madden said. "I think that's the part of refocusing and getting ready for our next game. We had a lot of success and did a lot of good things in Game 5; but it's over with. We have to start all over. It starts (Wednesday) night."

The Blackhawks talked the right game on Tuesday's off-day.

"Just by that win (Sunday) night, we knew it was just one step closer," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We want to take that last and final step tomorrow night. That's all we need to focus on. Same way we always had leading up to this point."

Chicago forward Patrick Sharp also insists his team won't get caught looking ahead, even though it has already eliminated Nashville and Vancouver this postseason with road wins in Game 6s.

"I don't think it matters if it's Game 5, 6 or 7; if you have a chance to close out a team and advance," Sharp said. "In this case it's something different. We want to make sure we take advantage of it. 
"We want to remain focused and try not to think about with a might happen or what could happen and just play the game that we're capable of.
Again, Madden makes the most cogent point as these hawks prepare to play the biggest game of their lives. He reminded them that they have yet to accomplish anything other than win three games in a Stanley Cup Final. They won't have accomplished anything if they don't win a fourth.

If they fail to win that fourth game, he says, nobody will remember how dominating Chicago was in Game 5. Instead, they will remember the tenacity of these Flyers and the fact that Chicago could not close the deal in the latest attempt to end a 49-year-old Stanley Cup drought.

"Even though it's a game where we can clinch, it doesn't change anything for us," Madden said. "We have to play the same way we did in Game 5, with the same mentality and be ready to play. Because this game (Wednesday) is going to be a lot faster paced than we have had before."