ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo understands the odds of his team coming back in its Western Conference quarterfinal series drops dramatically if they fall for a third consecutive time to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
Only three teams in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs have won a series after going down 3-0. It happened in 2010 when the Philadelphia Flyers rallied to defeat the Boston Bruins, in 1975 with the New York Islanders topping the Pittsburgh Penguins and in 1942 with the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Detroit Red Wings.
“I think both teams understand the importance of this game,” Yeo said prior to Sunday’s afternoon game. “Clearly, we’re going to be a desperate team today. This is a very significant game for us. But this is a team that we’re playing against that also has a lot of playoff experience. They understand the importance of this game, too. You’re going to see two teams going head to head tonight.”
One area where Yeo would like to see improvement Sunday is in their physical play against the Blackhawks. Unlike a lot of the other playoff series around the league, the Blackhawks-Wild series hasn’t gotten ugly yet.
“We have a lot of guys they’re getting their first taste of playoff hockey,” Yeo said. “Some guys have been a part of it for a while. But there’s no question, I really believe to be successful there has to be a level of hatred for the team you’re playing against. It shouldn’t be hard for us. They’re trying to take away something from us.
“They’re a good team. The fact we’ve played them a couple times, the fact we’ve come out on the wrong end. There should certainly be some hostility by the end of this game tonight.”
Yeo would especially like the Wild to show that anger toward the Blackhawks’ top players.
“One thing we haven’t done in particular is be physical on key guys, especially on their defenseman,” Yeo said. “When you look back at the game, we have opportunities to put cracks on a guy like [Duncan] Keith, and we’re not taking those opportunities. We have to understand it’s more than just that play; it’s about investing in the series and making sure that every time they’re going to touch the puck that they know you’re coming.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t present for Yeo’s press conference, but he had an idea of what the Wild had in store for the Blackhawks.
“I expect a dangerous opponent tonight as well,” Quenneville said. “But we want to make sure that playing on the road that we have to play our game harder than we’ve played the first two games. It’s going to be challenging in all areas of the ice. Let’s be ready to set that tone and don’t be surprised by that.
“We want to have another strong start. The first [game] wasn’t very effective, but much improved in Game 2. Going into in this building, hopefully we can have a strong start, don’t be reactionary, try to be proactive and try to set the tempo and try to quiet the crowd as best you can.”