Hawk Talk: Blackhawks have kudos for Q

Hawk Talk: Blackhawks have kudos for Q

Tuesday, May 25, 2010
10:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Its undeniable that Joel Quenneville has led a storied career in the NHL. The ex-defenseman is just one of just three men to have played in at least 800 NHL games and been a head coach for at least another 800. He ranks 11th all-time with 535 regular-season wins and, aside from the legendary Scotty Bowman, is the only member of the top 14 winningest NHL coaches with a career points percentage of better than .600.

But one accolade had so far eluded Quenneville, even with 11 of his 13 teams making the playoffs: Coaching in the Stanley Cup Finals. With Sundays win clinching the Western Conference finals over the San Jose Sharks, the Chicago Blackhawks mentor can shake that monkey off his back and focus on taking home the Cup. And those close to him on the Blackhawks couldnt be happier.

With nine Stanley Cup wins and an NHL all-time best 1,244 regular-season victories, Bowman, now a Blackhawks senior advisor, has been around the rink a few times. So without deifying a man who felt such kinship with the Cup he named his son (now Blackhawks GM) Stan, there can be no higher praise of a coach than whatever spills from Bowmans lips. And the Hall-of-Famer was quick to praise the job Quenneville has done with the Hawks.
Its so great for Joel, Bowman said. Youve got to have players, of course, but Joel has paid his dues. Its about time.

Bowman was quick to note that Quenneville had indeed coached in the Stanley Cup Finals, as an assistant under Marc Crawford for the 1997 Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche. But he also knows that the head mans first shot at clinching a Cup is sweet.

No one knows a team better than a head coach, Bowman said. This team has stayed focused despite being young and not quite through all the playoff battles a Stanley Cup team usually has.

Bowman also praised Quennevilles work guiding a team that is so marked by youth overall and guided by such young stars as Jonathan Toews (who turned 22 during the playoffs) and Patrick Kane (21). He recalled only his first Cup winner, the 1973 Montreal Canadiens (ironically, cough, a team that upended the favored Blackhawks in the Finals), as having such a young element on it. But the sum playoff points total of players 22 and younger for Bowmans 1973 Habs was just 19 (led by Guy Lafleurs eight) while Toews (26 points) and Kane (20) lead Chicago in playoff scoring (and Toews leads all NHL playoff scorers), and 22-year-old Niklas Hjalmarsson has chipped in five points as well.

This most recent sweep was perhaps as the coup de grace of a brilliant coaching run for Quenneville this spring. Count Bowman as one of many veteran observers who were downright amazed at how well Coach Q focused his team specifically for the Western Conference finals.

These two teams Chicago and San Jose were neck-and-neck all season, the veteran mentor said. By that measure, you couldnt find two more evenly-matched teams. And yet the Blackhawks are advancing with a sweep. I just dont know how you couldnt have done a better coaching job than Joel did.

Blackhawks center John Madden brings all 37 of his years to the rink as a veteran competitor while skating like those legs are still 27. But for all his knowledge of the game, the Chicago alternacap was unaware that Quenneville was stepping into the Stanley Cup spotlight for the first time. In fact, no sooner than Madden had dismissed needing any extra incentives to win a Cup than this writer supplied him one.

Wow, I didnt realize that, Madden said. Is that true?

When informed that, indeed, Quenneville was leading his first team into the Finals, Madden recounted the joy he felt in helping deliver veteran coach Pat Burns his first Cup, with the New Jersey Devils in 2003. Burns had mentored three previous teams and labored 13 seasons in the NHL as a head coach before drinking from the chalice.

(Cue the opening notes of The Twilight Zone: Quenneville is in his 13th year as a head coach. Burns was 51 when his Devils won the Cup. Quennevilles age? Fifty-one.)

We were so happy to get Burns the Cup in 03, Madden remembered. Hed had some tough breaks that kept him from getting too close over most of his career. It would be great to get Joel a Cup, too. Id be ecstatic.

Quenneville, for his part, has been cool and calm to the core in the early days of his first taste of Stanley Cup coaching. Tuesday he was cracking jokes, like how he had a feeling that the number of ticket requests he was preparing to receive could be a concern. But the mentor also showed surprising perspective for a man whos coaching his first Stanley Cup club.

You never know how many opportunities youll get here, Quenneville said. The process is what youll remember: Where were you, what happened that day. The camaraderie around the room is what you cherish.

Such sentiment is music to the ears of Bowman, who recognizes that Cups are won and lost depending on the perspective a team places on the process itself.

It can break both ways, he said. Youve got to keep your priorities in order, but playing it too straight doesnt work, either. You get excited to be here, but keep it under control.

Cool Hand Q getting out of control? Well have to see it to believe it.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

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Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Brent Seabrook is out and Jonathan Toews will miss his eighth consecutive game when the Blackhawks host the New York Rangers on Friday night.

Seabrook suffered an upper-body injury in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. The defenseman fell awkwardly along the boards and was down for a few moments. Coach Joel Quenneville said Seabrook is day-to-day. Quenneville added he’ll decide tomorrow who takes Seabrook’s place in the lineup.

“Seabs has played really well for us on the back end this year and we’ll definitely miss his contributions,” Quenneville said. “We’re looking for someone to step in.”

Toews is feeling better and could skate on Friday. Quenneville would not rule out the possibility of Toews returning Sunday against the Dallas Stars.

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Duncan Keith did not practice on Thursday but he’s expected to play vs. the Rangers. Scott Darling will start.

Quenneville said Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy on Saturday, is “status quo.”

Meanwhile, Nick Schmaltz, who was assigned to Rockford over the weekend, scored two goals in the IceHogs’ 3-2 loss to the San Antonio Rampage.

“I talked to Norm (Maciver, Blackhawks assistant general manager) about his game, they were extremely happy with how he played,” Quenneville said of Schmaltz. “He scored twice and there could’ve been more.”