Detroit at Chicago
GAME THREE, STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS WEST SEMIFINALS
RED WINGS LEAD SERIES 2-0
8:00 PM ET, May 22, 2009
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Red Wings-Blackhawks Preview
Esposito, Mikita say Hawks need to play like they did in Game 2
Hawks legends say team just has to continue to battle as they did Tuesday night in Detroit
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES May 22, 2009/CAROL SLEZAK firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Esposito played in 99 postseason games during his Hall of Fame career, but the pressure he felt then was nothing compared with watching the Blackhawks and Red Wings go at it this week. Tuesday's overtime loss was particularly tough.
''I got very worked up during the game,'' the former Hawks goaltender said. ''I didn't sleep too well that night. In the first game of the series, it didn't bother me because the Blackhawks didn't play well. When they don't play well, it doesn't get to you. But when they play that well and come up with nothing, it really gets to you. I was disappointed because I thought they deserved a better fate than that.''
Stan Mikita, who played in 155 playoff games during his Hall of Fame career, also had some anxious moments while watching Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference finals. The best-of-seven series resumes tonight at the United Center.
''I get nervous,'' the former Hawks center said. ''But I try to look at the whole picture, not just what happened on one play.''
Esposito and Mikita have been a constant presence at Hawks home games this postseason, and tonight will be no exception. Like the players, the coaching staff and the team's expanding fan base, they expect the Hawks to play better at home. But there are no guarantees.
''They're a good young hockey team, and they learned a lot in the two losses about how Detroit plays under pressure,'' Mikita said. ''You could see an improvement between Game 1 and 2, and if they do the same thing in Game 3, they'll be OK.''
Turnovers clearly hurt the Hawks in the first two games, and much has been made of Brian Campbell's ill-fated pass attempt during overtime in Game 2 that led to the Wings' winning goal. Maybe too much has been made of that play.
''Campbell plays aggressively, and you need a player like that,'' Esposito said. ''I've seen that same thing happen to Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey, great offensive defensemen like Campbell.''
Mikita liked what Campbell said after the game, that if he had to do it over again, he would do the same thing.
''That's the right attitude,'' Mikita said. ''All great athletes make mistakes. Dick Butkus didn't hit everyone. He missed some. Tiger Woods makes a mistake once in a while.''
In Esposito's view, the game never should've gone to overtime because the Hawks outplayed the Wings throughout regulation.
''They had tremendous chances early,'' he said. ''[Wings goalie Chris Osgood] came up big. I thought we could have opened it up, but that didn't happen. The Wings were lucky to win that game, and I bet they knew that. I bet they went into the locker room after regulation and said, 'Guys, we're lucky to be here.' This series should be 1-1.''
Whether by virtue of luck, talent or a combination of both, the Wings have a 2-0 lead in the series. But they've yet to play the Hawks in Chicago. Games at the United Center tonight and Sunday could change the tone of this series.
''When I watch, I look at what happens and wonder why,'' Mikita said. ''The way the puck bounces at a certain time. The way it hits off the boards. A good pass now may not turn out the same way later.
''Things can change so quickly. [Game 3] is almost a must-win situation, but you can't think ahead. [The Hawks] know how to play hockey. They can go out there and beat anybody. When you have that confidence, and can look at the guy across from you and say, 'You're not going to beat me,' chances are they're not going to beat you.''
If Mikita and Esposito could change anything, it would be the Hawks' poor Game 1. But there's no turning back.
''In Game 3, they just have to play like they did in Game 2, and everything will be fine,'' Esposito said. ''They need to show that aggressiveness again. You can't look at having to win four out of the next five games [to advance to the Stanley Cup finals]. You just look at [Game 3]. And then when you win, you worry about the next one.''
Better yet, just go out and play and leave the worrying to others.
''We should be proud of them,'' Mikita said. ''They should be proud of themselves for what they've accomplished so far. Let's see what happens in the next two games.''