Wild hope Blackhawks matchup is turning point
ST. PAUL—It doesn't take much to get Wild coach Bruce Boudreau going when talking about the Chicago Blackhawks.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the 62-year-old coach is looking at Saturday's match-up as a potential turning point for the Wild.
"I think it's really important," Boudreau said. "It's our biggest game of the year."
And not only because the Blackhawks are in town.
After a rough start, the Wild have won three of their past four games, and their Saturday, Nov. 4, meeting with the Blackhawks gives them a chance to cap a season-long, six-game homestand in style. They are 3-2-0 at the Xcel Energy Center the past two weeks, and 4-2-0 would go down a lot better than 3-3-0.
"We could take what's been a good homestand and turn it into a great homestand," winger Chris Stewart said. "We want to end on a high note."
"We had a great start last night (in a 6-3 win over Montreal), and we're going to need the same things tomorrow," center Eric Staal added. "It's a good test for us against a good team, and we should be excited about it."
The first thing the Wild need to do, Boudreau says, is build some consistency. The Wild have only won back-to-back games once all season.
"We have to be able to put games together and not be mediocre, like win one, lose one, win one, lose one," Boudreau said. "If we look at teams that make the playoffs, they're generally 15 games over .500. You've got to put a pretty good run together to get to that stage. And the fact that it's the Blackhawks, who have been the premier team not only in our division (but) in the league the last few years, it's easier to get up."
Stewart said it's always easier to get up for the Blackhawks because the Wild have been the little brother in the rivalry over the past five years or so.
"I still remember my first time here (in the 2014-15 season) when they sent us packing in the playoffs," Stewart said. "They are a team we want to beat every time we play them."
Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk agreed that the bad blood has something to do with the Blackhawks knowing the Wild out of the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.
"It probably stems from those rivalries in the playoffs," Dubnyk said. "We're trying to concentrate on what we're doing right now and get consistent. Again, it's always good when Pittsburgh rolls in, Chicago rolls in, it's always a tough task and forces us to be sharp."
A few weeks ago, the Wild were sharp in a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks in Chicago despite finishing the game with just eight forwards.
While it's always good to win the first game of the season series, Boudreau knows that doesn't hold much weight in the grand scheme of things. Especially considering the Wild won the first game of the season series last season before dropping the final three.
"We know what happened last year," Boudreau said. "We beat Chicago the first game, and then they won the rest, because they were defiant and they weren't going to lose. We have got to be able to meet their energy and their push on Saturday because they're going to come in here wanting to prove a point, I'm sure."