CHICAGO - For a team that roared to 112 points in the regular season and has gone 12-4 in the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks had few rough moments this season. One memorable occasion was March 13, when the Flyers tripped the Hawks, 3-2.
Highlighting a rough stretch in which they lost eight of 13 games after the Winter Olympic break, the Blackhawks seemed on their way to victory at the Wachovia Center that day. But Scott Hartnell scored to even the score with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left, and Chris Pronger amazingly provided the winning margin with 2.1 seconds to play.
"It might have been the most frustrating loss all year long," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday after the Blackhawks' first practice since capturing the Western Conference title Sunday with their sweep of San Jose.
"Giving up a lead late and giving up the goal to beat us without getting to overtime was a tough pill to swallow at that time," Quenneville said.
That the Flyers displayed such resiliency both in that game and during their run in the Eastern Conference playoffs is something the Blackhawks won't ignore.
"We know what we are getting into with this team and how they are going to be," Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland said. "We'll be ready for that."
One player who will be sharing his thoughts on how to deal with the Flyers is center John Madden. He played for the New Jersey Devils for 10 seasons before going to the Blackhawks in 2009.
"Any time you have a team that competes as hard as the Flyers do with the talent they have, they are going to be tough to beat," Madden said, recalling the two playoff series in which the Devils took on the Flyers. "The games are going to be won in the trenches and in front of the net, so we have to be prepared."
One specific part of that preparation facing Quenneville and the rest of the Chicago coaching staff will be keeping his team fresh despite the five-day layoff. In their first two series of the playoffs, Chicago had lethargic home-ice losses to Nashville and Vancouver.
So Quenneville is looking to conjure up the same formula for the Stanley Cup Finals that the Blackhawks had in their 2-1 opening victory against San Jose on their way to the sweep.
"Throughout these playoffs, we have been looking to improve," Quenneville said. "In the San Jose series, I thought we had some really good games. I think there is momentum for both sides going to the finals."
So does Quenneville think his players are capable of taking their play even higher as they try to erase a Stanley Cup drought that dates back to 1961?
"I think we can get better," he said. "There is still another level that we want to get to. We should be very excited about the way we played against San Jose, but I still think we can strive to improve in this series."