Blackhawks

Blackhawks need to keep intensity at Xcel Energy Center

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Blackhawks need to keep intensity at Xcel Energy Center

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).

[MORE: For Blackhawks, patience has to keep paying off]

“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.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoff run, Blackhawks fans!]

“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.”

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."