The biggest game of the Minnesota Wild season takes place tonight with game four of the quarterfinal series with Chicago. The Wild pushed the Blackhawks to overtime in game one only to fall short. Game two saw the top team in the NHL dominate the Wild en route to a 5-2 win. Trailing two games to none, the Wild returned home Sunday and gave the fans a taste of their first playoff game in five years.
Game three was completely different in terms of style of play for the Wild and they picked up a must needed 3-2 win in overtime. The Wild played a more physical brand of hockey taking the play to Chicago out hitting the Hawks 34-13. They also outshot the visitors 37-27 and were in control of the tilt for the majority of the game.
This isn't as easy as a "rinse and repeat" conversation. In the hours following the Wild's game three win questions out of the Windy City were centered around grit and playing their own physical game. That conversation might be easier said than done for a team that plays creative and skilled hockey.
If the Blackhawks care to live on the edge and the Wild can get the visitors to think more about hitting than scoring, it could be advantage Minnesota and in the process could even the series at two each.
Where's the Beef?:
The Blackhawks top line of Jontahtn Toewes, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad have tallied a total of one goal and one assist. Hossa's goal came back in game one on the power play. Outside of that, zero, zip, nada.
If the Wild continue with this style of play of finishing every check possible and playing smart and physical. Knowing Chicago will increase their physical game and will bring their best effort tonight. The Blackhawks are coming tonight, and they are coming angry. The Wild need a fast start or at the least a push in the first period. If they can get that, doubts of a team that has lost its last two first round playoff series might begin to creep forward.
Back when the North Stars were the team in the state of hockey, the Blackhawks were the hated rival. When this series began, there were some conversations that the games could pour gasoline on all those memories and the only thing missing is a lighted match. The 19,000+ at the Xcel Energy Center could provide the spark.
With the 8:30 start time, the Wild will host a pre-game party from 6-8 on the sidewalk between Gates 1 and 3 of the Xcel Energy Center. It will feature Five Man Advantage, food and a beer garden.