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Hawks have their work cut out heading into Philly

06/07/2010 5:01 PM

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-- The statistical data has already been presented to the Blackhawks about their ineptitude in Philadelphia, and will ramp up again as they return to the home of cheesesteak sandwiches, the Liberty Bell and rabid, orange-clad Flyers minions.
They'll be asked about playing in the Wachovia Center again, where the Hawks lost Game 3 and Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and haven't won in 10 straight games dating back to 1996 -- the year the building opened. They will be reminded of Philly's sterling 9-1 record at home this postseason and how difficult it will be to clinch Chicago's first Cup since 1961 in Wednesday's Game 6 (8 p.m., NBC, CBC, RDS).
Philly has outscored opponents at home by a count of 37-20 in the playoffs thus far to go with some outstanding goaltending in the City of Brotherly Love.
Then there's the Kate Smith factor.
The famed Philadelphia singer died in 1986 at age 79, but the Flyers bring her back to life via the video board to accompany Lauren Hart in singing "God Bless America" before home playoff games. They also did it for the last game of the regular season against the New York Rangers -- which ended in a shootout win by the Flyers that officially punched their Playoff ticket.
All of the above will be fair game for reporters the next two days, despite Chicago's impressive 7-4 win at home on Sunday. People now want to know: How, exactly, do the Hawks plan to win in Philly?
"It's not easy," center John Madden said Sunday night. "We're going to be facing a team that's probably not happy with the outcome of (Game 5) or how they played. It's a team that's going to be fighting for their lives. We've got to be better than we were tonight and you've got to approach it like it's a Game 7."
Madden knows a thing or two about clinching Cup victories, having won two during 10 seasons in New Jersey. To him, the next game has nothing to do with poor all-time records, bad luck, Kate Smith or any other statistical mumbo-jumbo.
It's about the Hawks' mind-set. Like Madden said, they must be even better than they were on Sunday if they want to hoist the Cup in Philly.
"Don't leave it up to chance at home (in Game 7)," Madden said. "Go there with the attitude that you have to win. Last year, (home ice) didn't mean much in Game 7 (for Detroit). We need to come out Wednesday with the attitude that we can't lose."
Of course, that's easier said than done with the vision of 22,000-plus Hawks fans waving red towels and "Do-do-doing" to The Fratellis still fresh in their minds. The Hawks said all the right things about staying poised and focused, but it'll be hard not to daydream about the Cup during the two off days.
"I know personally I'm trying not to think about it," Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "It's tough to go into a game with those distractions, but we've got to focus on what we can control -- and that's just playing as best we can."
If they don't, they will surely head back to Chicago on Friday with the series again knotted and the Cup coming down to one last game. Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger -- a shutdown artist skilled at bending rules and stick shafts -- will be sure to do his part to extend the series.
Pronger was notably salty after Game 5, even by his sarcastic standards. He was saddled with a wretched minus-5 and watched a sixth Hawks goal happen from the penalty box. During the game, TV cameras also appeared to catch him telling Hawks forward Tomas Kopecky, "Your breath smells," as they came face-to-face in the corner.
Pronger's, though, might not be minty fresh next time if he comes out breathing fire as anticipated.
"I wasn't aware of that and it really doesn't matter," Sharp said of Pronger's minus-5. "The main thing is he's going to come back stronger the next game."
Will the Hawks?
Can they win in Philly or will they again fall prey to the Flyers and that haunted house called the Wachovia Center?
Coach Joel Quenneville believes they can, but it will take the same inspired effort as their last time out.
"We don't want to change our approach, play the same way," he said on Monday. "Same emotion. One shift at a time. Fine tune it and don't look at the big picture."
Certainly not at the big screen up above -- especially before the game.