The Minnesota Wild will have a home crowd at a fever pitch on their side in Game 3 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks will counter with the only advantage they have in situations like this -- they're the best road team in the NHL.
The Wild was 14-8-2 at home this season. The Blackhawks' 18-4-2 road record was, not surprisingly, the best in the NHL this season. But even outside of their stellar 2012-13 regular season, they have a number of players who notably perform well on the road -- starting with Jonathan Toews but including Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.
Kane led the NHL in road scoring with 30 points this season (the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin was second with 29). The automatonic Toews led the NHL in plus/minus on the road with a plus-21. He was a plus-7 at home --for what it's worth, no player in the league had a road-heavy disparity even close to that. (the Penguins' Pacal Dupuis, the former Wild forward who led the NHL with a plus-31 this season, was plus-17 on the road and plus-14 at home).
The Hawks have been the best road playoff team in the NHL over the past three seasons -- 11-7 overall with five losses in overtime. They were 8-3 in 2010 when they won the Stanley Cup. When the Canucks wrested home-ice from the Hawks in the conference semfinals that year, Kane, Toews, Sharp and Hossa combined for eight points in Game 3 and 12 points in Game 4 as the Hawks took control of the series with 5-2 and 7-4 victories.
Toews, who had scored two meaningless points in the first two games at the United Center, had eight points in those two road games -- three in Game 3 and five in Game 4 -- that turned around the series. That's how you win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Even in first-round losses to Vancouver and Phoenix the past two seasons they were 3-4 on the road -- and came within a shot of beating the Canucks in overtime on the road in Game 7 in 2011.
''I'm sure the building will be rockin','' Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. ''It's something we'll have to get used to. We've been in some hostile environments before, such as Nashville and Vancouver -- even Philly [in the 2010 Finals].
''I'm sure we'll be ready for the challenge. Usually in those games on the road, in a hostile environment, you want to maintain the first 10 minutes and just outwork people.''