CHICAGO – No one has questioned the Blackhawks’ confidence during a postseason run that seemed to be on solid footing against Minnesota, that nearly ended against Detroit and that regained momentum against Los Angeles.
Experience has taught the Hawks well as they prepare for their second Stanley Cup Final in four years. It’s a vast difference from the 2010 championship run when the Hawks had plenty of talent before the roster was dismantled by the salary cap. Now, coach Joel Quenneville said much of his core group are more mature than they were the last time around.
“I think maybe our team was too young and stupid to even know what was going on,” forward Patrick Kane said during Tuesday’s media day at the United Center.
Center Dave Bolland said Marian Hossa – who is playing in his fourth Stanley Cup Final in six years – has been one of the stabilizing voices in the Hawks’ dressing room, helping keep things even-keeled. That attitude, he said Tuesday, will be key in what’s expected to be a long, tough series with the Boston Bruins.
“Last time [the attitude was], ‘We’re here, we’re here,’ ” Bolland said. “I’m not saying it’s that different – we’re still here and it’s a huge accomplishment still – but being here and sort of feeling it out with all this media, it’s a little bit of an eye-opener that first time, but once you go through it once, you know what it’s like.
“You know what it’s like to experience it.”
Back to the bench: Forward Viktor Stalberg spent the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals on the bench. He likely is to start there when the Stanley Cup Final begins Wednesday night at the United Center. Stalberg was on the Hawks’ fifth line in practice Tuesday morning, replaced in his normal fourth-line role by Brandon Bollig, who skated with Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger.
Quenneville was asked if the change likely is to carry over to Wednesday’s opener against the Bruins.
“We’ll see, it was just practice today,” Quenneville said. “There’s a likelihood, a probability that could happen. And they played well together, that line (that skated together Tuesday) all year long. It could happen.”
Stalberg, who missed only one game during the regular season, was noticeably frustrated. He said Quenneville informed him of his decision in a conversation that he wouldn’t discuss.
“I feel like I’ve done what I’ve been asked to and if they want some more toughness in the first game, so be it – I can’t affect that,” Stalberg said. “All I can do is work hard, show them I’m ready to play if need be. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance this year because I think I can make a difference.”
Long time, no see: The Hawks and Bruins haven’t seen one another since the fourth game of the 2011-12 regular season, when Boston edged the Hawks 3-2 in a shootout. But the fact that the two teams haven’t played since, Quenneville didn’t sound overly concerned about knowing what to expect in the series.
“There’s probably a lot of unpredictability in everybody’s mind with how it’s going to play itself out,” Quenneville said. “I think with video and watching hockey and scouts and people you talk to in the game, I think you have a pretty fair assessment of how they’re going to play. I don’t think we complicate our team’s game, as well, and so I think it’s a pretty straightforward game.”