Two victories down, two to go: that’s the simple way of looking at it. Getting those last two victories, however, won’t be so simple.
The Blackhawks accomplished what they wanted at the United Center, where they claimed Games 1 and 2 from the Wild. But they know from their own first-round experience that the two-game series lead is much like the two-goal game lead: it’s not necessarily safe.
As they head to Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild won all three of its first-round games, the Blackhawks know they can’t let their guard down or assume they’ve got this series in the bag.
“They’re going to be excited to go home and the crowd will be as loud as any building in the league. They’ll have enthusiasm playing in front of their crowd,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Wild. “We want to make sure we go in there, try to get a reasonable start and put ourselves in the game. There are no easy games, no easy series. You never get ahead of yourselves, particularly in the playoffs.”
The Blackhawks came back from an 0-2 series deficit to the St. Louis Blues in the first round. Same goes for the Wild, who were down 0-2 to the Colorado Avalanche heading back to St. Paul, Minn., for Games 3 and 4. The San Jose Sharks watched a 3-0 series lead go by the wayside, thanks to the Los Angeles Kings. So, no, there is no such thing as an easy series. The Wild played the Blackhawks tight here, with the Hawks only breaking free and padding their lead late in both games. The Blackhawks don’t expect that stifling game to change.
“Those first two periods they’re sitting back but in the third period they were flying, taking chances, creating things out of nothing and keeping the offense going,” Bryan Bickell said. “It’s going to be a different matchup and different lines, being in their building. We just need to carry momentum.”
The Wild won’t get the 0-2 lead get them down, considering their first-round comeback. Coach Mike Yeo knows his team is close.
“Last series, I thought we did a great job staying positive,” Yeo said. “Despite the fact that we were down 2-0, we still believed that we could win. That to me is the No. 1 thing. When I look at these last two games, I know we can be better; we're not that far off. We're a play or two each game away from being at least with a split right now. I think there are positives in that. The fact that we've been a good home team, that should bring confidence.”
The Blackhawks took care of their home ice advantage, at least the first portion of it. Now they’re looking to steal a game in Minnesota. The 2-0 series lead is nice to have and the Blackhawks have a lot of confidence right now. But they aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“Absolutely (confidence is high). Then again, we don’t want to get carried away with that,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’ve seen in some other series, whether up 2-0 or 3-0, there’s no time to get comfortable. We have to keep playing, keep improving, because it’s only going to get tougher.”