Blackhawks respect second-round foe Wild

The Hawks are the higher seed, but they lost three of five games to the Wild this season. Cal Sport Media/AP Images

CHICAGO -- The Wild is the lower seed. The Blackhawks have home-ice advantage. Just last season the Blackhawks eliminated the Wild from the playoffs in five games.

But while there are those reasons for why the Blackhawks might feel their matchup with the Wild is a favorable one in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blackhawks stressed Thursday they are in no way overlooking the Wild.

“This is a good hockey team,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Thursday. “It's a different team than we saw last year. They've improved in a lot of areas. Their depth and their skill throughout their lineup is improved and their balance in their team is across the board -- four lines and three lines probably can all score.

“So, I think there's a lot of respect on our team and, you know, last year in the first round I didn't know what to expect from their team. But it's a whole different opponent. They've got the excitement of winning a round, the excitement of their town behind them. And as you progress in the playoffs, they don't get any easier. We feel that this is a very dangerous opponent and we have the utmost respect for them."

The Blackhawks don’t have to look any further than the regular season to understand how dangerous the Wild can be. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks in three of their five regular-season meetings. The Wild have also played some of their best hockey over the past month and a half. They closed out the regular season 6-3-1 to earn a playoff berth and finished off the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the first round.

“They play a tough style,” Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “They’re a great team. They came in on a high note in the playoffs. They were pushing hard to get a good spot. After last season, they’ve shown what they can do. We’ve got to be ready.”

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp thinks last season’s playoff matchup will only add to the fire of this season’s matchup.

“I’m sure there will be some bad blood carried over from last year,” Sharp said. “It always happens. The more you see somebody in the playoffs, that happens. We learned that with Vancouver over the years. Last year was a tough series, a lot of close games until the last one there. Really could have went either way, so we’re going to have to play our best hockey.”

Quenneville looks forward to that element.

“I would say that’s how you build rivalries,” Quenneville said. “They’re in our division this year. You get to see them a little bit more. I think that’s one way of getting enemies on the other side and creating some animosity.

“I’m sure they got a history now between Colorado and Minnesota. I think that ours is in place. You can expect both buildings to be loud and the excitement in the cities is definitely going to be there. I think that town was looking for a win. I think they’re going to be excited about it as well. We’re looking forward to it.”