Blackhawks

Wild shifting focus heading into Game 3 vs. Blackhawks

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Wild shifting focus heading into Game 3 vs. Blackhawks

Prior to Game 2 of their second-round series against the Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild had yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation since acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk back in January.

A 4-1 loss put the Wild down two games in the series, but if you ask coach Mike Yeo, the team that lost on Sunday isn't the same group he's seen over the last four months.

"I don't know what team played that game, but it wasn't us," he said after the loss. "It was 0-0 through the midway point of the game. We were doing some OK things without the puck to keep it at 0-0, but with the puck, like I said, that's not us."

Part of Minnesota's struggles had more to do with the Blackhawks putting on a stronger defensive performance from Corey Crawford on out. It took the Wild nearly half the first period to register a shot on goal and until the third for Matt Dumba to find the back of the net.

But there were mistakes Minnesota made defensively that gave the Blackhawks too many opportunities that they managed to capitalize on. Much of that, Yeo believes, is due to where the team's focus was heading into the game.

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"I think the way we went into this game, obviously we put a great deal of importance, but when that happens quite often you have to make sure the focus is right and the focus is on the process," Yeo continued. "I think we were focused on the goal and focused on the win and not focused on the things we needed to do."

The Wild head back home in an unfavorable situation, down two games against the team that ended their season in each of the last two postseasons.

But after facing the Blackhawks multiple years in a row, they feel they have a better grasp on the team and the way they play. Now the Wild will be back at home in front of their crowd, and they hope that can spark some change as they shift their focus heading into Game 3.

"We know they know how to win hockey games, and we know how good of a team they are," Nino Niederreiter said of the Blackhawks. "We gotta make sure we focus on us, and (Sunday) I feel like we were thinking too much about them instead of playing our game and the hockey we know how to play. I think we played the game in their favor, and we gotta make sure we bounce back (Tuesday) and play our game."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis is joined by Scott Powers of The Athletic to discuss Stan Bowman's comments following the Marian Hossa trade and debate whether they're finished making moves this summer.

They also provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks' top prospects and which players have caught their attention as development camp winds down.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."