ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks have reached this point again, although faster than most of us figured they would in this round.
They’re up 3-0 in this second-round series against the Minnesota Wild with a chance for a sweep on Thursday. But as we’ve written in previous rounds, the Blackhawks know that fourth victory is the toughest to get. And to get it this time, they’re going to have to bring their best game yet.
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The Blackhawks have a few chances to finish this series; their first is on Thursday when the Wild host Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center. But getting over that final hurdle is tricky. The opponent’s game gets that much more desperate and the Blackhawks have to match that, knowing it’s not the end of the world – or the postseason – for them if they do lose.
“You’ve got to expect them to come out hard. They’re not going to give up and roll over,” Andrew Shaw said. “They’re a great team. We’ve had some really tight games with them. So we’ve got to keep doing the same thing. We’ve got to play patient hockey and capitalize on our opportunities and if Corey [Crawford] keeps standing on his head and our [defense] keeps clearing the puck, we should have success.”
At this time of year talk turns to teams having a “killer instinct.” Ryan Suter said the Blackhawks had it following their 4-1 Game 2 victory over the Wild. That instinct is something the Blackhawks tap into even more when they’ve got the chance to close a series. For them, every game has to be a must-win.
“We’ve been in a lot of different situations: we’ve been down 3-0, ahead 3-0. You’re always playing that next game like it’s a game you have to win. That’s your focus,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You don’t think of the three games after [Game 4]. Right off the bat, we want to make sure we’re playing the right way and not waiting for them to come at us. We want to make sure we try to quiet them even more effectively than we did yesterday.”
Several Blackhawks point to Game 2 against the Wild as their best of this postseason. They were strong on both sides of the puck and in goal. And they feel they’ll have to play as well as that, perhaps even a little better, to win this series.
“The Game 2 we had was probably one of our best in the playoffs,” Johnny Oduya said. “We want that effort, and that’s what’s going to be needed to win that game and that’s all we think about.”
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The Blackhawks are closing in on another series clincher. They haven’t won anything yet and aren’t thinking past this next game. If they play accordingly, it could be their last game for several days.
“We have to treat it obviously like the game that it is. We know what’s at stake,” Oduya said. “You can’t really go away too far from what you want to do and how you want to play. It’s a fun game, the type of character games you want to be in. But with that said, we know how we have to play.”