The funny thing about the Minnesota Wild’s incredible postseason run is that every game becomes their biggest yet.
Tonight is going to be no different, and Scott will have all the pregame details up shortly, but the feeling is in the air that the Wild isn’t about to let what happened in Colorado in Game Five of the quarterfinals happen again in Chicago. Minnesota has been outscored 9-3 in the United Center this series, but hasn’t exactly been dominated in any other fashion. After knotting up the series with an impressive pair of wins in Games Three and Four, the pressure now rests squarely on the shoulders of a Blackhawks team struggling to rediscovers its identity.
The Wild have a lot to be excited about. Very few people thought they would’ve gone so far this postseason, not to mention cause the defending Stanley Cup champs to have serious concerns about the course of this series. However, Minnesota has done nothing yet and the players know it. It’s now a best-of-three series with two games to play in Chicago–a building the Wild have yet to win in, though they haven’t been too far off. Like the Blackhawks the past two games, they have to deal with the home crowd and last line change. But that’s the only difference.
There is no high altitude like there was in Denver–this is the same team Minnesota has thoroughly dominated the past two games. Plus, there are legitimate concerns that Chicago is starting to crumble. If the Wild can get on the board early and stay strong, it could very easily take the crowd out of the game. That’s the last thing Chicago wants and a top priority for Minnesota.
We saw how electrifying the Xcel Energy Center was on Friday night. The Wild dominated all night long, scoring big goals while their goaltender made even bigger saves. The chants of “Let’s go, Wild!” and “Crawford!” nearly drowned out the in-game commentary at times and seemed to serve as lead weights to Chicago’s skates. If they can prevent the same from the Blackhawks’ home crowd, Minnesota has a very real opportunity to return home to clinch the series in Game Six.
That said, the players are pulling out all the stops in order to ensure a road victory. Like they did prior to Game Seven against the Avalanche, the locker room stall assignment has been switched up from Games One and Two. Young gun Nino Niederreiter is no longer calling the shots as to what time he joins vets Zach Parise and Jason Pominville for pregame java. Finally, after a pair of wins, Parise’s playoff beard is starting to show and the hope is that it doesn’t change tonight (he shaves after every playoff loss).
Tonight’s outcome will be huge. If the Wild win, this series is theirs to lose. If Chicago wins, Minnesota is in for the fight of its life. It’s nothing the club hasn’t overcome before.