The Blackhawks had a chance to put their foot on the Minnesota Wild's throat in Game 3 at the Xcel Energy Center and failed, instead getting outplayed in a 3-2 overtime loss and seeing their series lead cut to 2-1.
Now up 3-1 after Tuesday's victory in Game 4, the Hawks are looking for that killer instinct that was missing in a sloppy, dispassionate Game 3 effort.
"I think we'll learn from Game 3 [because] we had the chance to really take control of the series," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We knew exactly what to expect from their team, that the first game in their building was going to be a really good one for them. And to be able to throw that effort back in their face would have been huge for us, showing them that even their best might not be good enough -- and we didn't do that at all. This is a chance to kind of redeem ourselves for the way we played in Game 3. Everyone's saying we haven't played our best game yet in this series. We've got to get as close to that as we can."
The Hawks certainly had a better performance in Game 4, particularly defensively. They cluttered shooting lanes, forced shots wide of Corey Crawford and cleared the rebounds he did give up, and minimized traffic in front of the net. Killing six penalties helped, too. In fact, the Hawks have killed off all 15 Wild power plays this series -- no other team has a spotless PK in the postseason.
"It's one of those things we stress throughout the season, playing good team defense," Patrick Kane said. "Our goaltending's been great, our defense has been great, but I think our forwards have been great defensively, too, whether it's blocking shots or trying to strip pucks and go the other way. As a forward, when you're playing good defense, usually it translates to more offensive opportunities and having the puck more, too. It can go both ways. I think ever since [Joel] Quenneville came in, he's really stressed getting better defensively for myself personally, and for the team, too. It's always been a big part of the game, the team defense."
The big concern continues to be a lackluster power play. The Hawks have just one power play goal in the series in 11 opportunities. Can the Hawks win the Stanley Cup without a strong power play? Kane's not so certain.
"It's something we still want to improve on and feel it can be good because it has been good in past," he said. "I don't know if you can. The last team that really did it was Boston, I know they struggled on the power play. I know the year we won, we had a great power play. It was a big key to our success, scored a lot of big goals. ... I still think we can do it and by the end of the playoffs, hopefully we'll show you guys."
In the meantime, the Hawks are once again expecting Minnesota's best effort, no matter who's in goal for the banged-up Wild. The Hawks have been on the brink of elimination before, so they know what the Wild is feeling. Despite two straight first-round exits, the Hawks were actually 4-2 when facing elimination over those two series.
"You feel like the series is never over until that final buzzer sounds," Patrick Sharp said. "We expect Minnesota to come in and play their best game of the series here in Game 5. They're a well-coached team, they've got some hard-working players over there. They've got a lot of character. So they're going through a few injuries like everyone does this time of year, but no question they're going to show up and play hard tomorrow."