They have been down this path once before these Chicago Blackhawks, leading a Stanley Cup final three games to two and venturing into a visiting rink with a chance to win it all. That happened three years ago against the Philadelphia Flyers and though it took until overtime for them to pull out the victory, on a goal by Patrick Kane, they wouldn't mind an instant repeat of that exact scenario.
Sure, winning at home, in front of that wild bunch at the United Center has its own charms, but the Blackhawks fully understand the need to clinch now and not give their opponents, the Boston Bruins, any second chances. The Vancouver Canucks made that mistake two years ago, a point that Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp raised Sunday, a travel day for his team.
"It is a similar feeling, especially having the series tied 2-2, taking Game 5 at home and coming on the road for Game 6," said Sharp. "You've got to be careful; you've seen a couple years ago Boston was down 3-2; they won at home and then won Game 7 in Vancouver. We know this team is capable of coming back.
"For us I know it's a big game, but you want to play it like it's any other game, play the way we have all season, and try to pull one out here on the road."
Sharp is currently leading all playoff goal-scorers with 10, while Kane is second with nine, after scoring two more on Saturday night, giving him seven in his last seven games and vaulting him into contention for what is yet again another wide-open Conn Smythe Trophy race. If the Blackhawks win, any of Sharp, Kane, defenceman Duncan Keith or goaltender Corey Crawford would be viable candidates for the award – Sharp because of his overall consistency, Kane because he has scored so many key goals of late, Keith because of his ability to play big minutes, and Crawford for his steadiness in goal.
The Blackhawks are a club that brings 'team concept' to new heights. There really is no clear-cut choice for the Conn Smythe the way there was three years ago, when team captain Jonathan Toews was almost a consensus pick.
Interestingly, the Bruins lost for the first time in regulation since Game 6 of the series against Toronto, snapping a streak of 14 consecutive games (11-3, with all three losses coming in overtime). "I mean, we are very desperate right now," said Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who has gone ice cold in the series, failing to score a point. "We've got to make sure we realize what's on the line. We don't want to lose this opportunity. It may never come again."
And while the Bruins are here after surviving a close call against the Leafs, Sharp noted the Blackhawks had their own moment of reckoning in the second round against the Detroit Red Wings, down 3-1 before they rebounded to win three games in a row.
"We're a pretty resilient group," said Sharp. "That's the one thing you start to understand about this group, and I think it's pretty much the same group as last year with maybe a couple differences. You know, we wanted to prove ourselves all year, especially to maybe our own organization that kept us together, that we're here and we can do some special things.
"We're one win away from that, and hopefully we can do it."