After a lopsided 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild in Game 3, Chicago Blackhawks fans can take heart in a postseason pattern that the team has all but cemented. From 2010 on, the Blackhawks’ record in the first three games of playoff series is a mediocre 18-18. In games four through seven during that period, meanwhile, Chicago has compiled an almost unbelievable 24-6 mark.
The numbers strongly suggest that the Blackhawks get much better as each individual playoff series goes on, adjusting to their opponents along the way. Some of this may be psychological more than anything, but there are a number of small tweaks that this year’s team can make to help take Game 4 on Friday.
First, Nick Leddy needs to be back in the lineup. His issues in Game 2 aside, Chicago plainly missed his passing and speed on the breakout. Sheldon Brookbank is a boat anchor compared to Leddy; while he played well in filling then-suspended Brent Seabrook‘s shoes during the first round, he doesn’t really fit anywhere in this series.
The Blackhawks would also do well to employ a more aggressive forecheck. Game 3 was one of the most uneventful games of this NHL season, and that is precisely how Minnesota wants it. The less scoring chances there are overall, the more things favor the defensive-oriented Wild. For whatever reason, Joel Quenneville and company seemed content with putting up minimal pressure on the Minnesota defensemen in the Wild’s defensive zone.
Getting the first goal is paramount for a Blackhawks team that has yet to lose this postseason when they do so. Game 4 could very well be decided by just that.