By Chris Emma–
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CBS) — Backed by one of hockey’s best home-ice advantages, the Blackhawks excel at the United Center.
From the raucous national anthem on through each rendition of Chelsea Dagger, the Blackhawks are tough to beat when playing in Chicago. They ripped off a pair of wins to take a 2-0 series lead against Minnesota in the Western Conference semifinals.
Can Chicago play spoiler in St. Paul for Game 3 of this series? Recent history suggests no.
The Blackhawks are 1-9 in road Game 3 settings since coach Joel Quenneville took over in 2008, and that ugly marks includes seven straight losses.
Tuesday’s tilt in the Twin Cities is here, with the Blackhawks making an emphasis on bucking this trend.
“It’s important to come out with a good effort and make sure we weather the storm with their crowd the first 10 minutes and kind of take off and push back after that,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said after Sunday’s win.
At the United Center, the Blackhawks reeled off victories of 4-3 and 4-1, appearing to play their best hockey of this wild season in Game 2. After the victory, the players were content — not letting emotions get too high.
While the Blackhawks have finished off the Wild’s season the past two Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center has brought bad times. Chicago was blanked 4-0 in Game 3 in Minnesota a year ago and dropped an overtime decision in the championship season of 2013, a 3-2 loss in St. Paul.
“We know it’s a tough building to play in in Minnesota,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It’s a loud crowd, and they get into it. We’re going to have to keep on getting better. We can’t sit back and think what we’ve done here is good enough.”
With proper perspective, the Blackhawks are prepared to tackle Tuesday’s game. Because while they have a comfortable series lead built up on home ice, Game 3 on the road is a daunting task.
Blackhawks vs. Wild, Game 3, Xcel Energy Center
TV: NBC Sports Network
Time: 7:00 p.m. CT
Emma’s 3 Keys
1.) Strike first and soon — It seems pretty simple, but the Blackhawks scoring first is vital against the Wild, who play a disciplined, defensive style of hockey. If Minnesota’s playing from behind, it’s out of its element. Chicago can really make things difficult by getting an early goal.
2.) Keep a net-front — Devan Dubnyk hasn’t appeared to be the same goaltender who dominated the regular season. The Blackhawks have made him seem mortal. With a big body in front of the crease — hello, Bryan Bickell — Dubnyk will continue to struggle.
3.) Be smart in front of Crawford — When the Blackhawks have given Corey Crawford help in front of the net, he can control the game. When the defense plays sloppy, Crawford is left attempting to stand on his head. The Blackhawks can’t make mistakes and expect Crawford to bail them out.
Prediction — Minnesota 4, Blackhawks 1
Hey, the Blackhawks have done just fine the past five years without Game 3 success. That being said, I don’t expect this trend to end tonight. The Wild will protect their home ice with a stronger, cleaner overall effort and get a game back.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.