Jonathan Toews talked about getting past two lousy losses in Minnesota, about coming home with the series now tied, 2-2, and what the Blackhawks needed to do to regain momentum.
“A real short-term memory and remind ourselves of how good we can be in our building,” Toews said on Friday night. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy.”
Be it the Blackhawks’ inabilities, the Minnesota Wild’s capabilities or a combination of both those past two games, it certainly hasn’t been easy. Now the Blackhawks are on the defensive, struggling to find their game, the best line combinations and a victory to get back in control of this series. They’ll have their chance to do all of that on Sunday, when they host the Wild in Game 5 of their second-round series.
The Blackhawks are like the Wild this season when it comes to home ice: They’re unbeaten on it. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks have to use that edge, much like the Wild did in Games 3 and 4. It starts with playing a strong game, something they have yet to do in this series.
“It’s exciting to be back at home and playing in front of our crowd and let’s take advantage of some home cooking here. In the past we’ve had success, but it’s down to one game (Sunday),” he said. “We should be excited about playing the right way. We talk about being hard to play against; we haven’t seen that level yet. That’s been necessary, and we’re going to need that (Sunday) night.”
As much as the Blackhawks want to take lessons out of the past two games they also want to forget about them — about how poorly they played in them, anyway. But Michal Handzus said the short-term memory has to be in place this time of year, regardless of the outcome.
“It’s playoff hockey. You need to have a short memory, stay even keeled,” he said. “Obviously we know we have to be better. You just forget about it, learn from it and take from it what we need to take for the next game.”
The biggest thing the Blackhawks can take from the last two games is what happens when they don’t play their game. The Wild were more than happy to take advantage of Chicago miscues, be it lapses by forwards and defensemen or a struggling Corey Crawford. Any time the Blackhawks gained momentum, they quickly lost it.
The situation isn’t dire; the Blackhawks have been here, done this before. Still, there are obvious concerns. They haven’t played anywhere near their capabilities the past two games. They’ve struggled to find consistent line combinations and have changed them before they’ve had a chance to even set.
Sunday’s contest has suddenly become very pivotal. If the Blackhawks are going to get a better result in Game 5, they have to have very short-term memories about Games 3 and 4.
“It’s a new game tomorrow,” Marcus Kruger said. “That’s what you need to do: You need to learn from the games before, but you have to look forward as well. That’s what we’re going to try to do. (Sunday) is a good test for us; we need to get better. I think we have something to prove.”