When it comes to playoff hockey, “resilient” is a funny word. It’s undoubtedly a compliment. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can say about a collection of players. Resilient means you don’t quit. Resilient means mental toughness. Resilient means character, leadership, and speaks to your compete level … and any number of the hockey world’s other favorite clichés all rolled into one. Good teams have it. Bad teams dream of getting it. Resilient is a badge of honor.
But it’s a badge you only get to wear when you’re losing. Tough times are a prerequisite of resiliency. After all, no team has ever been resilient when it was up 3-0 in a series. It’s a great card to have in your hand, but it can’t be played until the scoreboard is crooked, the injuries are mounting, and a series (and season) is slipping away.
Resilient means you never give up. But it also means you might be kind of screwed.
Today, the Chicago Blackhawks are resilient, which is a nice way of saying they’re in trouble. They trail the Stanley Cup final 2-1 after a Game 3 loss at home in which they gave up the winner with three minutes left in regulation after getting only one puck past a goaltender who could barely stand. A loss in Game 4 tonight in Chicago would give the Lightning a chance to skate the Stanley Cup around their home ice in Game 5. Tonight is not quite a must-win game — at some point we can probably acknowledge that the term has lost all meaning — but it’s close.
So tonight will be a test of the Blackhawks’ resiliency. Luckily for them, they have plenty. The Blackhawks know it — on media day, coach Joel Quenneville told reporters that “the resiliency of this group is as good as you’re ever going to find.” The Lightning know it — Alex Killorn described Chicago as a “resilient group” last week. (An important note: There is no such thing as a resilient team. It’s always a resilient group or, in rare cases, a resilient bunch.) And we heard all about it in the conference finals against the Anaheim Ducks, when Chicago trailed the series three separate times before finally coming back to win in seven games. The Blackhawks were “really resilient,” according to Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano. Cam Fowler echoed that they had “resiliency and attitude … they never quit.”
Of course, that Hawks-Ducks series was a battle between teams that both laid claim to the resilient label — and not just resilient, but “tremendously resilient,” according to Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau after Game 5. The Ducks would show resiliency one night, then the Blackhawks would resilient them right back the next. That’s where this can get kind of complicated, since we don’t quite know who’s really resilient until it’s all over and we find out who won.