The Blackhawks had the right amount of confidence and caution as they headed to Minnesota on Monday afternoon.
Last spring, the Blackhawks took a 2-0 second-round series lead into Xcel Energy Center, only to return to Chicago tied 2-2. The Blackhawks enter Game 3 this year much as they did the last one, with another 2-0 series lead. But the Wild know how to win in its home building, so the Blackhawks will have to bring their best if they want to win on Tuesday night.
The Blackhawks take to the road knowing their first road game of playoff series aren’t usually so good. Outside of their double-overtime, Game 1 victory against the Nashville Predators in the first round, the Blackhawks hadn’t won their first road game of a postseason series since 2010 (vs. the San Jose Sharks).
“We’ve had success at home. But we’ve always felt our toughest game to have success in is that third game, the first in their building most of the time,” Joel Quenneville said. “We know they’re ready, excited; don’t give them a chance to get back in the series. It puts them in a situation where they have to win. But I feel we play better when we feel we have to win the game.”
As much as the Blackhawks want to win Game 3, they don’t have to win Game 3 as much as their opponent does. So how, when you’re up 2-0 in a series, do you fix your mind to think you’re down to bring the right amount of desperation?
“I just think you’re playing to win every game,” Quenneville said. “You go into a game, you have to play the right way. We have to play better than the last game, and [Sunday night] we thought was our best game of the playoffs. We always feel we have to progress. These guys, you don’t have to convince them. We know we have to elevate it in their building.”
The Wild said their confidence hasn’t been shaken despite the 0-2 series deficit. Again, the Wild evened this series last year with two strong games at Xcel. It also came back from a 0-2, first-round deficit against the Colorado Avalanche last season, winning that series in seven thanks to Game 3 and 4 victories at home. So you can understand why it’s not wavering.
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“Being at home is a huge boost. We’ve got our fans, we’ve got a little momentum there for that, and we just need to come out with a good start and relax and really just enjoy the moment,” Jordan Leopold told the Minnesota media on Monday. “It’s all about being positive and being composed and being relaxed and not gripping our sticks too tight and not worrying about what the outcome is but just worrying about every shift.”
The Blackhawks took care of the first two games at the United Center. Now they have to do the same in a tough building. They never thought this would be a cakewalk, and given their opponent’s work at Xcel, they’re proceeding with caution mixed in with that confidence.
“I think we were saying before the series [that], in a way, a lot of people look at us as the team that’s expected to win this series. We’re not thinking that way at all. We’re thinking we need to work for every chance, every bounce we’re going to get,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’ve shown that so far and we know that there’s still a long ways to go, a lot of work left to do and a lot of room for improvement as far as our game goes. We like where we’re at right now, but we know that this series is long way from being over.”