It's not time to worry about Hawks vs. Wild
May, 6, 2013
By Jesse Rogers
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJonathan Toews isn't looking past the Wild, who fed off the energy from their home crowd in Game 3.The question after the Chicago Blackhawks' Game 3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday is did the Hawks just let them back into the series down only 2-1 now?
The answer is probably not.
There are many perspectives to take, of course, but seeing the Wild play their best and only squeak out a 3-2 overtime victory leaves the glass half-full for the Hawks. In other words, the Wild delivered their best punch and barely won the fight.
"They played like they had to win and we didn't," coach Joel Quenneville said after the game.
Makes sense, considering that was situation facing both teams entering the day.
The Wild outshot, outhit, won more faceoffs and simply played better hockey but still needed more than 60 minutes to win a game they had to win. It doesn't mean it can't happen again but odds simply say it won't on Tuesday. The Hawks are too good.
"We should have expected that from the start," Jonathan Toews said. "Just because we won two games at home doesn't mean they're going to throw the series. It's seven games for a reason."
Yes, and the Wild were playing their first home playoff game in five years. This isn't South Florida; these people care about their hockey.
"It's good to get playoff hockey back here," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "The building was electric, it was loud. The players fed off that. You could tell right from the start the crowd was into it."
So Minnesota didn't lie down. They fed off their crowd and the Hawks played a little less intense being up 2-0 in the series. These were all predictable things, yet if the right bounce goes their way in overtime, it's 3-0 Chicago. What does it all mean?
The Wild had their game, now it's back to the greatest show on ice unless, of course, the Hawks take another one for granted. If they aren't paying attention then maybe a repeat is possible on Tuesday.
"We have to have an effect on their defensemen," Yeo said. "We have to get pucks in behind them and make sure we're arriving physically. ... We stepped up that part of the game (Sunday). We're going to have to need continue to do even more of that."
It's not a coincidence two of the Wilds' three goals initiated from behind the Hawks' net, including the overtime winner. Unless they get a rare odd-man break, when the Wild come down the ice their strategy is to forecheck hard. It's probably been the Hawks biggest weakness, even going back to 2010 when they won the Stanley Cup. Punish the Hawks' defense with a fore-check and you might just beat them.
"They were a little quicker than us," Duncan Keith said.
So there are adjustments to be made considering Game 4 is back where Game 3 is and the crowd should be just as a big a factor as it was on Sunday. For one, Hawks centers have to play from red line to red line. They'll need to help the defense when that forecheck is coming. But mostly the Hawks just need to play quicker and smarter as they retreat to get the puck in their own zone. They'll do that because they know what's coming. And they know the environment better there too now.
If you need more convincing the glass is half-full for the Hawks then consider this: They're up 2-1 in the series and Toews has zero points while Dave Bolland hasn't played a minute. Both of those stats might change as soon as Tuesday.
In the playoffs, the difference between calm and panic can be 60 minutes away and that's where Hawks' fans might be at this moment, but the Wild still have to get through the next game before we can call this a series.
Then panic can begin. But not yet.