No game is a foregone conclusion, but the Minnesota Wild have to be feeling pretty good about their chances at home in Game 6.
In Games 3 and 4 of their second-round series with the Chicago Blackhawks, the club served up a hearty dose of home-cooking to the visiting team at the Xcel Energy Center -- home-cooking that seemed to be laced with some sort of paralyzing agent. They were better in every aspect, outscoring the Blackhawks 8-2, evening the series at two games apiece and, in so doing, earning the right to play a third game in the building.
All that in mind, and after sweeping the home portion of their Round 1 series with the Colorado Avalanche, Game 6 versus Chicago looks truly winnable.
Problem is, Game 6 is on Tuesday.
It will follow Sunday night's Game 5, which, unfortunately, takes place somewhere else. And if the Wild's Jekyll and Hyde routine at home and away persists, they'll be leaving the United Center in the same position as last time: with their backs against the wall.
At this point, that's just wasteful. As a wild card team, the Wild aren't in a position to coast on their home dominance. It's kept them alive, and that's wonderful, but at some point, Xcel needs to be more than a loud hospital. It would be nice for the Wild to use a home game to twist the knife, rather than carefully remove it from their own gut.
Mike Yeo said as much to in his pregame comments. From the Star Tribune:
“This is a great test and a great opportunity for us to prove that we’re ready to take another step,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “I don’t want to sit here and just say, ‘It’s great, we got ourselves back in this series,’ and then take another step back tonight. This is a real challenge this game. I said this yesterday, we’re not just here because we want to make a series of it. We believe we can win this series and obviously this game would give us a better chance of making that happen.”
[...] On his team’s confidence, Yeo said, “We were confident coming into this series and we’re confident right now. At the same time, we’re cautious. We still know who we’re playing against and what they’re capable of, and I think we all recognize the importance of this hockey game. We know that we have to win a game in this building and we prefer to try to do it tonight."
In an attempt to do that, the club rearranged ther locker room for Game 5, hoping snuff out the feel of their last two visits. Perhaps they'll have more luck in the United Center from an alternate universe?
If they do, they'll be in the driver's seat of this series. A win in Game 5 and the Wild return home for Game 6 with their first series lead of the postseason. They'll have all the momentum after winning three straight, and all they'll need to upset the Chicago Blackhawks and move on is a victory at home, the one thing that's come easy to them this postseason.
Game 5 needs to be Minnesota's Game 7, and they know it. if they win it, they may not even need to play a real one.