ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Although the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks appear to be steamrolling toward a meeting in the Western Conference finals, they’re only halfway there.
The Minnesota Wild and the Calgary Flames both must climb out of an 0-2 series hole at home Tuesday night to give themselves much of a chance to turn the tide.
Playoff-tested Chicago and talent-laden Anaheim streaked out to their second-round series leads with two strong performances at home, capped by victories on Sunday night. While veteran Minnesota has been more competitive than upstart Calgary so far, both teams seem quite capable of mounting a rally in front of their home fans.
“We’re going to go into a lively building that’s going to be rocking,” Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said Monday before the Ducks boarded their flight to Alberta. “Our group does a pretty good job of calming themselves and doing the things we need to do.”
After outscoring the Flames by a combined 9-1 so far, the Ducks still haven’t lost a postseason game this spring, becoming the sixth team since 1990 to go 6-0 to start a playoff run.
The Blackhawks never trailed while winning their first two games against Minnesota, which also lost the first two games of a second-round series in Chicago last season. The Wild rallied last spring to tie the series by winning twice at home, but Chicago has knocked Minnesota out of the last two postseasons.
“We can’t take the foot off the gas here,” Chicago’s Patrick Kane said. “We’re not satisfied with the two wins. We want to go back and make sure we have a good Game 3. A tough building to play in. Great crowd. It seems like they excel pretty well on their ice, so it’s something we’ve got to be ready for.”
Here’s a glance at the two playoff games on Tuesday’s NHL schedule:
Blackhawks at Wild, Chicago leads 2-0, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
The Wild return home hoping the raucous Xcel Energy Center will give a boost to their flagging marquee players, who had an abysmal performance in Game 2.
Thomas Vanek was a minus-4, while top defenseman Ryan Suter was a minus-3 with a glaring turnover that led to Jonathan Toews’ goal. The Wild’s top line of Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville was completely shut out by the quicker Blackhawks.
The Wild didn’t practice Monday, instead getting together for a film session to help them make some adjustments to the way the Blackhawks play. After prevailing in a six-game series against St. Louis in which the Blues tried to muck things up with physical play and intimidation after the whistle, the Wild have looked a step slow at times facing a Chicago team that relies much more on speed.
“It’s a different game than St. Louis,” Vanek said. “They play such a fast, long pass game where I think we got trapped into thinking we have to play the same way as them to beat them. But we’ve got to get back to our game.”
KEEP THE PUCK
All four of the Blackhawks’ goals in Sunday’s 4-1 win came off careless Wild turnovers. The Blackhawks shift from defense to offense as quickly as any team in the league, and the Wild know they can’t be that sloppy anymore.
“We know they’re a great team, and yesterday they capitalized on the mistakes they got,” winger Nino Niederreiter said. “They’re a good team and we need to make sure we sharpen up in those areas and make sure we don’t give them any presents.”
Ducks at Flames, Anaheim leads 2-0, 9:30 p.m. ET, USA Network
Most teams would be wary of venturing into a Canadian rink mobbed with fans long-starved for Stanley Cup playoff success, but the Ducks handled that daunting task flawlessly just two weeks ago.
Anaheim knows it can manage the pressure of a raucous north-of-the-border crowd after winning twice last month in Winnipeg, where fans hadn’t seen an NHL playoff game in 19 years.
“We have to be focused, because our scouts told us Calgary is a lot louder than Winnipeg,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re good Canadian fans. I don’t expect we’ll get a great welcome.”
The Flames ended a five-year playoff absence this spring, and they won three times at the Saddledome while dismissing Vancouver in the first round.
Calgary will need more than its fans to slow down the Ducks, starting with some production from the three elite scorers who recently made up their top line before coach Bob Hartley started shuffling personnel.
Top scorer Jiri Hudler has one shot in two scoreless games against Anaheim, while diminutive American star Johnny Gaudreau has no points and just two shots. Calgary has one garbage-time goal on 54 shots overall against Frederik Andersen.
“Anaheim is a good team, and we’ve got to make some adjustments here,” said youngster Sean Monahan, a minus-3 with two shots and no points. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to find a way to win.”
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minnesota contributed to this report.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.