The opening salvo of “Chelsea Dagger” by the Fratellis is instantly recognizable; an earworm of a tune that can echo inside the listener’s head for hours after the needle is pulled from the record. While it’s one of the catchiest hooks in music, it is a switchblade to the ears of visiting hockey teams at Chicago’s United Center. The Dagger is the Blackhawks’ goal song and the 20,000 plus fans in the arena jovially bounce along with the onomatopoeia crescendo when the team scores.
In the last two Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Minnesota Wild has heard the tune 23 times in the Windy City, as the Hawks have won all six contests at the United Center on its way to eliminating the Wild in both meetings.
“We haven’t won a playoff game yet in this building,” Yeo said. “If we’re going to win this playoff series, we have to find a way to do that.”
This year, the Wild hopes to hit the mute button on the Hawks’ home ice advantage. Minnesota is playing with a quiet confidence this postseason. It was strong on the road in the second half of the regular season and won twice in St. Louis in Round 1.
“We also know what we’re up against,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “For the last several months we’ve been at it pretty good and we’ve had to be at our best. And with that we’ve been probably pretty close to the best team in the league, and obviously with respect to the other teams out there, but the bottom line is until we get into this series, until we find something different, or prove that something’s different, then nothing’s changed.
“We have to change something here along the way."
This season, Minnesota clinched a playoff berth with a 2-1 win in the Windy City on April 7. However, it knows how difficult the building can be in the postseason and will take past lessons into tonight.
“You always learn something. You have to play right from the start and right to the finish,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said.
The Finn led the Wild in scoring with four points (1-3=4) against the Blackhawks in the regular season.
“You usually get the advantage when you’re home. You’re more comfortable playing in your own building,” Koivu said. “They’re one of the better teams in the League, so for sure, they’re comfortable playing here. But we’ve been good on the road the last couple of months. I think we were good in the first series too.”
The last couple months have coincided with the arrival of goaltender Devan Dubnyk. He’s been the bass to the Wild’s defense, a steady rhythm anchoring the team.
Following Dubnyk’s first game on Jan. 15, Minnesota led the NHL with a .850 win percentage (16-2-2) in road games. He’s posted a 15-2-1 record, .949 SV% and 1.53 GAA in 19 road games with the Wild. Minnesota set franchise records in road wins (24) and points (50). The Wild also tied the NHL record with 12 consecutive road wins (2/18-4/9).
“We certainly don’t take a different approach on the road at all. It’s just we’re real good at staying and concentrating on what we’re doing and how we want to play,” Dubnyk said. “That’s important to have, especially because you’re always going to be playing in difficult buildings and this is obviously one of the toughest buildings to play in. So we need to stay with that mentality.”
Dubnyk On Masterton Nomination
Yesterday, Dubnyk was named a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins were also named finalists.
“It’s a big honor,” Dubnyk said. “You try to wrap your head around all of it. It’s definitely a different award than the Vezina with the nomination. But I’m just as honored. It’s been a long, well documented year for me. And when you get recognition for that, it certainly feels good for me and my family as well.”
Dubnyk also was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender, on April 24.