The Blackhawks hope they just need one shot, though, and that’s how they’re approaching Thursday's Game 4. They want to close out the Wild as quickly as possible and not open the series back up to other possibilities.
“Well, one thing in the playoffs you never want to get ahead of yourself,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said at the team hotel in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday. “There’s always different challenges, and there’s different swings that can happen. We’ve been in probably every different situation where we’ve been ahead, down 3-0, we’ve been ahead 3-0.
“But certainly you’re always playing that next game like it’s a game you have to win, and that’s your focus. You don’t think of the three outs after. I think that’s important that you play tomorrow’s game like we want to make sure right off the bat we’re playing the right way; we want to make sure we’re not waiting for them to come at us in the building being electrified with a big start for them. We want to make sure we try to quiet them almost more effective than we did in [Game 3].”
It’s a point Quenneville will undoubtedly make to his team before Game 4, but some of his players do already understand that approach with a 3-0 series lead.
“We have to treat it like the game it is,” Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said Wednesday. “We know what’s at stake. We know that they know. I think you can’t really go away too far from what you want to do and how you want to play. It’s a fun game and the type of character games you want to be in. But with that said, we know how we have to play.”
The Blackhawks will be aiming to play a lot like they did in the last few games against the Wild. They defeated them 4-1 in Game 2 and 1-0 in Game 3. The Blackhawks didn’t allow a 5-on-5 goal in either game, received more consistent goaltending from Corey Crawford, improved their special teams, scored first in both games and have tallied some timely goals.
The Blackhawks have gone up on a team 3-0 just once in seven years under Quenneville, and they swept the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of that series in 2010. They’re 13-4 in close-out games under Quenneville.
The Blackhawks are a confident, but not cocky group when it comes to those close-out situations. Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was sure the Blackhawks would not overlook the Wild in Game 4.
“I don’t think so,” Shaw said. “I think we’re pretty confident, and we’re happy with how we’re playing. We’ve just got to stick to it and keep working and keep competing for one another.
“I mean you’ve got to expect them to come out hard. They’re not going to give up and roll over. They’re a great team. We’ve had some really tight games with them. So, we’ve got to keep doing the same thing. We’ve got to play patient hockey and capitalize on our opportunities. And if Corey keeps standing on his head and our D keep clearing the puck, we should have success.”