There are no easy games. There are no easy series.
Joel Quenneville offers that reminder at all times, seemingly in answer to expectations of sweeps and short series.
It is a wise coach who lets his team know that the games are not played on paper, even while all around are scribbling a path back to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blackhawks know it takes four games to win a series, not two, and they still need two more after losing 4-0 in Minnesota on Tuesday night, continuing a pattern of losing the first road game of every series they play.
The Hawks insisted they would be ready for Game 3 this time after failing to match Minnesota's energy in a similar situation a year ago, and they played it smart from the start, slowing the game to a crawl and giving the Wild no chance to gain momentum or feed off their crowd.
With no score after two periods, the plan was working nicely and Minnesota had precious few scoring chances, while the Hawks knew they could create off a mistake and get their opportunities to win a low-scoring game.
But when you're playing it that tight, it only takes one guy missing an assignment to get you into trouble, and that's what happened when Patrick Kane let his man go on a 3-on-3 and Erik Haula tipped a puck past Corey Crawford for a 1-0 lead 1:41 into the third.
Minnesota scored again only 2:37 later on another breakdown defensively, and the Hawks spent the rest of the third chasing the deficit. The Wild got a late power-play goal and an empty-netter to finish the scoring.
There was nothing wrong with the Hawks' effort or Quenneville's strategy Tuesday, but having failed to execute, the Hawks will likely open it back up again Friday night in Game 4, hoping to return home for Game 5 with a chance to end the series in Chicago on Sunday.
They are the better team in this series but have yet to play a 60-minute game, and now that they know how to slow the Wild, look for the Hawks to put together their best effort of the series in Game 4.
But the reality is the Blackhawks may have faced their toughest opponent in the first round, and with Minnesota defeating Colorado and Los Angeles now leading Anaheim, the Hawks may secure home ice for yet another round after this.
In fact, of the six teams finishing the regular season with a better record than the Hawks, three -- Colorado, St. Louis and San Jose -- are already home, leaving Boston, Anaheim and Pittsburgh skating between Chicago and home ice in the weeks to come -- and the Bruins and Ducks both currently trail in their series.
No, there are no easy series -- but some are easier than others.
And after facing a brutal set with St. Louis, things seem to be going the Hawks' way in terms of matchups.
There's no shame in understanding that good fortune is part of winning titles, especially as it relates to health and matchups. Combine that with good goaltending and a skill level unequaled in the NHL, and it's a great formula for a repeat.
Last spring the Hawks benefitted from facing the two least physical teams in the postseason first in Minnesota and then Detroit, and by the time the defending champion Kings arrived in Chicago in the conference finals, they were battered, bruised and -- for the most part -- beaten.
They could no longer impose their will on the Hawks.
If the Hawks wind up facing Los Angeles, it will be not be as easy a chore this time as Jonathan Quick is back in postseason form, but again they'll get the Kings -- if they defeat Anaheim -- after Los Angeles has had to endure two brutally challenging series.
It didn't go the Hawks' way Tuesday night, but there is a lot happening in their favor right now.
At the same time, however, Joel Quenneville will tell you that there's a long way to go -- and even winning this series won't be easy.
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