Blackhawks excited for chance to close out Wild

Blackhawks excited for chance to close out Wild
May 12, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Game 6 between the Blackhawks and Wild begins at 8 p.m. on CNBC, or you can watch via NBC Live Extra's live stream here. And don't forget to flip over to Comcast SportsNet after the game for Blackhawks Postgame Live, which will also be streaming on CSNChicago.com here.

If there’s one thing the Chicago Blackhawks are well versed in, it’s closing out a series. They’re 11-2 in clinching games dating back to 2009, an impressive record, indeed.

As they head into another series-clinching opportunity, however, there’s a new wrinkle: they’ll be trying to do it at Xcel Energy Center, where the Minnesota Wild dominated them in Games 3 and 4. And getting that victory there, where the Wild has yet to lose this postseason, will not be easy.

The Blackhawks will try to close out the Wild on Tuesday night when they play them in Game 6 of their second-round series. The Wild has been here before, however, facing elimination to Colorado in the first round; it won Game 6 at Xcel and then beat the Avalanche in overtime in Denver.

[MORE: Andrew Shaw to miss Game 6]

So what do the Blackhawks, who were so outplayed in those two games last week, need to do to win there this time?

“Play a little bit harder,” defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “They play a really fast game and we just have to bring a little bit more effort I think. I think the first game we played in there, we had them somewhere maybe where we could’ve scored the first goal. In Game (4) there, we weren’t really close. They’re really good, so we need a better effort.”

The Blackhawks got that on Sunday night, especially in the second period, when they beat the Wild 2-1 to go up 3-2 in this series. Now they need to take that on the road and into a building in which the Wild have supreme confidence. It showed in the Wild’s game last week there; they had the Blackhawks befuddled, took advantage of their miscues and kept the crowd engaged throughout. The Blackhawks, who struggled with any line combination they tried, were losing puck battles, not driving the net and not challenging Ilya Bryzgalov.

On Sunday, the Blackhawks did more of the above. They finally broke through the Wild’s near-net clog, getting two greasy goals from Bryan Bickell and Jonathan Toews. They won battles. They stopped trying to be fancy. They just — played.

“I think a big step was what we did last night: simplifying,” said Bickell, who in front of the net to deflect Patrick Kane’s power-play shot in Game 5. “They’re a good team in their building for a reason. We just haven’t found that reason to beat them. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

[RELATED: Bickell, Toews lead Blackhawks' rally over Wild in Game 5]

If the Blackhawks can’t figure out the Wild in Minnesota, they’ll host Game 7 at the United Center on Thursday. But Game 7s are dangerous; they’re intense, they’re dramatic and there’s no rhyme or reason to them. The Blackhawks don’t want to think about a Game 7. If they play their best game in an arena that’s seen them at their worst, they won’t have to think about it.

“I don’t think we ever think further than the next game. It’s not even in the back of our mind,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’re going to Minnesota, excited about the challenge and the opportunity that’s in front of us. That’s our focus and (we’re) concentrating on winning that game. That’s what it’s all about.”