Since the start of their second-round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild, the Blackhawks have preached the importance of playing a patient game against a team that doesn't give up too many opportunities.
So far that's paid off for Chicago, as the Blackhawks enter Game 4 with a 3-0 series lead and a chance to sweep.
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Now it's do-or-die for the Wild, who are still looking to come back against the team that's eliminated them from the postseason the last two years. And while the Wild have also taken a more patient approach in the past, that's not what they're looking to do Thursday night.
"I don't think patience is the right word," coach Mike Yeo told the Minnesota media prior to Game 4. "We have to keep attacking. We have to defend; defending is what prevents you from losing hockey games. We have to make sure that we don't lose. At the same time, you can't win if you don't attack. We have to attack their game plan a little more than we have. We have to attack smarter in certain situations."
Earlier in the series, Yeo said his team had seemed to be focusing on the overall outcome rather than taking each game one play at a time. Now the Wild have found themselves in a tough situation against the Blackhawks — teams with a three-game lead are 194-4 all-time in postgames series — and now Minnesota plans to put out a more aggressive performance to get a win on home ice.
"When we have the opportunity to attack, we have to go. We have to take advantage of it because they don't give you a lot of opportunities," Yeo said. "But we also have to find a way to create some more opportunities and that means getting in on the forecheck a little bit more, it means playing in the offensive zone a little bit more. Not being one and done when you get in the offensive zone."
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The Blackhawks' defensive performance from Corey Crawford on out has gotten better and better as the series has progressed. On Tuesday, Crawford recorded a shutout against the Wild, who couldn't generate a whole lot in front of Chicago's net.
So while patience has been the key word in this series, the Wild are now ready to take a different approach. The Blackhawks haven't been giving up a whole lot to the opposition, but tonight, the home team will try to find ways to change that.
"You're not going to get in the offensive zone in the first five seconds they have a big breakdown," Yeo continued. It's how we use our puck strength, our movement down in the offensive zone. It's how we have a good F3, it's how we hunt and recover pucks. We force them to make mistakes. That's generally and typically when we're on top of our game and we didn't see a lot of that stuff last game. I think we use that as a pretty good example of showing our guys that when we're doing those things, we can be effective."