ST. LOUIS -- It takes a lot for the Chicago Blackhawks' confidence to be shaken.
It didn’t happen when they struggled to score early in the season, when their play declined in January, when they lost Patrick Kane to injury in February or when they went through a rough patch in late Match.
It’s not happening now, either. Although the Blackhawks dropped their third consecutive game Thursday -- assuring themselves of beginning the playoffs on the road -- and aren’t exactly playing their best at the end of the regular season, their confidence remains unbreakable.
The message across the board following Chicago's 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues was that the Blackhawks still believe they’re capable of anything and everything.
Forward Marian Hossa said he wasn’t bothered about not having home-ice advantage in the first round. The Blackhawks needed to at least force Thursday’s game into overtime to give themselves a chance at home ice. The Blackhawks trail the Nashville Predators by just two points for second place in the Central Division heading into the regular-season finale Saturday, but the Predators already own the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins).
“Well, we have to deal with that,” Hossa said of playing on the road. “I believe it [isn’t] going to affect us.”
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had a similar answer when it came to a lack of goals lately. Chicago has scored a total of three goals in its past three games. Toews placed more of an emphasis on the fact the Blackhawks haven’t allowed more than two goals in any of those three.
“No, I don’t think it’s a concern,” Toews said. “We’re not giving up a whole lot. The fact that we’re getting down a goal or two in games doesn’t help us late, especially these teams that are playing smart defensively this time of year. But I think if we’re ready to go off the start and right off the hop, try to get ahead of teams, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Coach Joel Quenneville spoke of wanting to get more bodies to the net (the Blackhawks had 22 shots on goal Thursday), improving the power play (they haven’t scored a power-play goal in the past five games) and being more disciplined with penalties (they were called for five Thursday). But he, like his players, was confident his team can succeed in the playoffs whether it is at home or on the road.
“We’ve been starting on the road in a lot of the playoff series over the years,” Quenneville said. “We just have to be ready for Game 1 and take where we have to play and be ready.”
Where that Game 1 will be is still undetermined. The Blackhawks could play on the road against the Anaheim Ducks, Predators or Blues in the first round.
The Ducks are the unlikely opponent. For that to happen, the Blackhawks would have to lose in regulation to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, the Minnesota Wild would have to defeat the Blues in overtime or a shootout, and the Ducks would have lose to the Arizona Coyotes in regulation.
The Blackhawks are more likely to play the Blues or Predators. The Blackhawks would play the Blues if the Blackhawks lost in regulation to the Avalanche and the Wild defeated the Blues in any way. The Blackhawks would play the Predators if the Blackhawks pick up at least one point against the Avalanche and/or the Wild lose in any fashion to the Blues.
The Blackhawks admitted their situation isn’t ideal or one they'd aimed to put themselves in, but, again, they said they aren’t worried. Just last season, the Blackhawks began the playoffs on the road and nearly ended up back in the Stanley Cup finals.
“We wanted to win the last couple of games; we just didn’t quite get the job done,” Toews said. “We’re not going to panic or overreact by any means. I think we’re doing a lot of good things, and the energy and motivation is going to be there at the right time.”