When the Blackhawks were down 2-0 in their first-round playoff series against the Blues, coach Joel Quenneville said he sensed a "sour" taste among his players that had not existed since they trailed the Red Wings 3-1 during last year's run to the Stanley Cup.
"We felt the whole playoffs (last season) we hadn't had the appetite, the taste in our mouth where we were sour after a couple of games," Quenneville said on April 20.
After Quenneville made that remark, the Hawks went on to win six consecutive games to eliminate the Blues and take a 2-0 edge against the Wild.
But during the last two games, the Hawks' taste buds seem to have been desensitized.
"I don't know if (I'd use) the words anger or hard to play against, that desperation or that battle," Quenneville said Saturday in the wake of their 4-2 loss in Friday's Game 4. "We have to have an attitude of desperation and go right through puck areas, right through people, and that's the difference. Generating scoring chances or generating offense, that's what we need. We have to be grittier."
Heading into Game 5 on Sunday night, the Wild have cornered the market on grit. Coach Mike Yeo is trying to make sure his team doesn't get complacent.
"Those good feelings, there's a lot of ways that can help you," Yeo said. "But at the same time you have to be very careful. You just have to be so careful that you don't let yourself feel too good. You can't let your guard down.
"And this is the same team we're playing that won the Stanley Cup last year, this is the same team that in Games 1 and 2 had us frustrated and had us looking like we were in a pretty deep hole."
The Hawks can put the Wild back in that hole Sunday with a little boost from playing at the United Center.
"Every home ice can sway the momentum, and they took advantage of it," Quenneville said.
The challenge for the Wild is keeping up their level of play on the road. Their series against the Avalanche started the same way -- they lost the first two on the road, then won two at home -- before dropping Game 5 on the road.
"There's been a little bit more of an aggressive mindset in how we executed the last couple of games and that has allowed us to get on the attack a little bit more." Yeo said. "We've got to take that attitude into their building."
The Hawks are hoping to have the same mindset.
"We are confident. We have the experience to go through it," center Michal Handzus said. "We know what we need to do. It's a matter of doing it on the ice."
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