ST. PAUL, Minn. – The frustration and anger showed on the Chicago Blackhawks’ faces on Monday afternoon, almost down to the man.
The Minnesota Wild took them to task in Game 3, hit them hard and often, and showed intensity that the Blackhawks couldn’t match. Heading into Game 4 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series, which they lead 2-1, the Blackhawks know they better play with that type of desperation and drive.
If they don’t, this series will get very, very interesting.
“We want to make sure we have more urgency to our game, more directness, and the passion that comes with playoff hockey,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Monday’s practice. “I’d like to see a very intense team. You watch other playoff series, you can see whether it’s the animosity, the hatred, the battles, that’s playoff hockey. That’s the level we have to get to and go from there.”
The Blackhawks had that intensity the second half of Game 1, which they pulled out in overtime. They had it for pretty much all of Game 2. But on Sunday afternoon, against a desperate Wild team that was trying to claw its way back into this series, it was AWOL.
“There are a lot of things I could throw out, but our intensity level wasn’t there,” Bryan Bickell said when asked for what didn’t work in Game 3. “To come back late in the third and then lose it in OT is tough. We need to pick up our game quite a bit. We have to move on.”
The Wild certainly took it to the Blackhawks physically, outhitting them 34-13. It’s going to be a rare night when the Blackhawks outhit an opponent. But Patrick Kane said it’s not so much about that as it is bringing the energy level higher.
“We just need to ramp up the intensity a little bit,” he said. “We played well in Game 2 but the other two games weren’t really playoff hockey for us. You want to bring a little more to playoff hockey.”
Brandon Saad agreed.
“We probably only played our best in one of the three games, and it’s showed. Tomorrow’s a big test and we have to be ready to play,” Saad said. “Minnesota wanted (Game 3) more, so we have to come more prepared, more intense.”
[RELATED: Saad a finalist for Calder Memorial Trophy]
Now despite everything the Blackhawks were lacking on Sunday, they still almost won the game. It’s something to take into consideration: the Wild played their best game of this series thus far, and still needed overtime to eke it out. Asked if the Wild delivered their best punch on Sunday, Quenneville said, “I don’t know. (But) we haven’t delivered our best.”
But the Blackhawks don’t want to play with fire against a Minnesota squad that’s determined to use a physical game, the Xcel Energy Center ice and, well, its energy, to even this series at 2-2. It’s not about withstanding a Wild attack for the Blackhawks. It’s about dictating, setting their own pace and playing their own game.
“We just need a better effort from everyone and (need to) ramp it up,” Kane said. “We want to get more chances at the net. If you’re bringing too much physicality and intensity, then you’re not worried about doing the things we did to score a lot of goals this year, which we did. We’ll just try to get back to the way the Blackhawks play hockey.”