ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild came back to the comfort of home, already trailing Chicago by two games in the Western Conference semifinals.
They were in this position just two weeks ago, so there’s obvious precedent for a rebound. But over that same time span, the Blackhawks are unbeaten.
For all the moxie the Wild showed in rallying from a 2-0 deficit against the Avalanche in the last round, including four tying goals in their overtime triumph at Colorado in Game 7, they’ve lacked the same edge in these first two matchups with the Blackhawks.
“We definitely haven’t shown what we’re capable of. We haven’t been on our game. We haven’t had that grittiness that we brought last series,” right wing Charlie Coyle said at Xcel Energy Center after most of the team took Monday off from the ice. “I think being at home right now is good for us and usually brings out the best in us, being here and playing here.”
This is an inarguably better Wild team than the one that lost in the first round to the Blackhawks last year in five games, but they have yet to prove they can compete with the defending Stanley Cup champions in the post-season. So far over the two series, they’re 1-6 against the Blackhawks with no goals in 21 power plays.
“This year and last year are completely different. I think we have a different group in here,” Wild left wing Dany Heatley said. “You guys can run whatever numbers you want, but I think we believe we can beat this team and it starts tomorrow.”
Game 3 is Tuesday, and Game 4 is Friday.
“Even when we’re up 2-0 it doesn’t mean anything,” Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa said. “You need to steal at least one game on their ice to get the series the way we want it to be.”
It sure didn’t mean much to the St. Louis Blues, who won the first two games at home against Chicago before dropping four in a row by a cumulative 14-6. The Blackhawks haven’t lost since April 19 and have outscored their opponents 23-9 since. They’ve taken the first lead in all of their six straight wins, including 2-0 over the Wild in each game this series.
“They’re very comfortable with their system,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “They have confidence with the way their goalie’s playing right now. And so they just continue to sort of play the same way, and then you make a mistake and they capitalize on that. So there’s no question it’s a challenge.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said right wing Andrew Shaw, who left Game 1 with an unspecified lower-body injury, was out for Game 3.