Hawk Talk: Divergent Paths to a Collision Course

Hawk Talk: Divergent Paths to a Collision Course

Monday, May 24, 2010
10:45 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks versus Flyers.

The other Keystone State team as a Finals foe, after Pittsburgh swept them last time.

Back on March 13th, Cristobal Huet played one of his better games as the goalie competition was still up for grabs, leading 2-1 with just over two minutes left at the Wachovia Center. But a breakaway goal tied it, and Chris Pronger capped a rush for the winner with just 2.1 seconds left. in the only meeting this season. One of Pronger's main jobs now will be trying to quiet down Dustin Byfuglien. 6'4, 260 against 6'6, 220 with an extremely nasty streak. This is where the Flyers expected him to take them when they acquired him last off-season. He won a Norris Trophy in one of his nine seasons in St. Louis, playing under Joel Quenneville. These Flyers have two more regular D-Men 6'3 and another 6'5.

You want questions in the crease? They also have a goalie named Michael Leighton. In, out, waived by Carolina, on to Philly, hurt, back in again, and the owner of three shutouts in the East Final versus Montreal. He was a sixth round pick of the Hawks in 1999, went 8-21-10 for them when he got his first Big Chance in '02-'03 and '03-'04. Duncan Keith was a minor league teammate at Norfolk. His backup: Brian Boucher: 1-10-3 with the Hawks three years ago. Patrick Sharp and Ben Eager will face their most recent ex-teams before being traded to the Hawks.

Keith, Seabrook, Pronger, Toews, Richards. Team Canada.

Philly's gotten healthier after showing the heart of Rocky by stunning Boston in coming back from the brink, down three games to none, in round two. They made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season - beating the Rangers in a shootout, then stunning heavily-favored New Jersey in the opening round.

They're getting strong secondary scoring now. Sound familiar? They've got guys for United Center fans to hate: Carcillo, Hartnell, Laperriere.

They fired their coach in December when they were above .500, then hired a guy who won a Cup in Carolina (with Andrew Ladd), and they promptly started 2-8 under Peter Laviolette.

Their captain eagerly grabs the Prince of Wales Trophy Monday night. Our captain acted as if the Campbell Trophy would give him a life-threatening illness if he touched it Sunday afternoon.

They're the latest team to participate in the Winter Classic and make the Stanley Cup Finals - where they've lost in their last five attempts. Just like the Blackhawks. At least their last Cup-hoisting was a mere 35 years ago. Not 49.

How soon can Saturday get here?

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

It’s been just over a month since the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in swift fashion. And as Patrick Kane told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning, the bitter taste hasn’t gone away.

“I think a lot of us didn’t figure we’d be in the situation we’re in right now,” Kane told Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet on Tuesday. “All of us can work this offseason to get better. It’s a long time to wait to get back to that opportunity to play in the playoffs again, so we’ll have a sour taste in our mouth for a while.”

The Nashville Predators, who made quick work of the Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night to earn the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Kane told WGN he’s been watching the playoffs and said Nashville “has a pretty good system going.”

“They come at you, they play aggressive. I don’t think any of us would be a big fan of the way they defend in the neutral zone, just sitting back and playing that 1-3-1. But at the same time they come at you,” said Kane, who added that the Blackhawks “weren’t even close in that (first-round) series.”

“Maybe we had a chance in Game 3 when we were up 2-0, but it was a clean sweep and that’s probably how it should’ve been,” he said. “So now it’s time to regroup.”

When the Blackhawks had their wrap-up media session on April 22, general manager Stan Bowman was asked if some players, having won three Stanley Cups since 2010, had lost some of the hunger. Bowman didn’t buy that and neither did Kane.

“Four sounds a lot better than three, right?” he said. “It’s a long time away and a lot of work, but sometimes you go through those situations and you realize you won three Cups and it’s almost like you’re going to be there again. That’s where the reality check is for us now, realizing how hard it is to get back in that situation, how hard it is to win a Cup or go deep in this league. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

On April 22, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vented his frustrations on the team’s all-too-abrupt exit from the postseason, adding that he and coach Joel Quenneville, “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

There will be plenty of decisions for the two to mull between now and September, when the Blackhawks convene for training camp. When it comes to the assistant head coach vacancy, however, that might need to be decided with a more one-sided approach. That choice ultimately should be made by Quenneville.

In a recent podcast, Pat Boyle and I discussed the Blackhawks’ need to work together on some upcoming decisions. But with the assistant coach, the head coach has to have the loudest voice. The head coach probably should even have the final vote. The relationship between coaches has to be there because they’re around each other constantly. They’ve got to be on the same page. There has to be trust from Day 1.

As for when the Blackhawks name that assistant, there appears to be nothing imminent. A source said Monday that the Blackhawks and Ulf Samuelsson have been in communication about the job — Chris Kuc of the Tribune first reported on Samuelsson on Sunday. On paper it looks like it would be a great fit. Samuelsson and Quenneville played several seasons together with the Hartford Whalers, along with current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The relationship with Samuelsson has been there for a long time and it would make for a smoother transition. It might also provide somewhat of a panacea for Quenneville after former assistant Mike Kitchen, whose friendship with Quenneville also went back to their playing days, was fired last month.

Earlier this month Bowman told the Sun-Times that Quenneville will have a big role in the Blackhawks’ finding their next assistant coach, with the final choice being a “joint collaboration.” We get that there’s an order to these things and everyone has to be in agreement with the final decision. But in the end the head coach has to be 100-percent happy with his immediate staff. So whoever the next assistant coach is, the decision has to be 100 percent Quenneville’s.