Chicago Blackhawks: John Madden
Quenneville was fired by the St. Louis Blues midway through the 2003-04 season.
“It’s a tough part of our business,” Quenneville said after practice Friday. “I know as players getting traded is always the downer. As coaches, getting relieved of your duty is as tough as it gets. I tried to get a hold of [Dineen] this morning. I know what he’s feeling like. It’s not a good day. You got to pick yourself up and keep fighting.”
Quenneville realizes being fired is an inevitable part of a coaching career.
“At some point [everyone gets fired], for sure,” Quenneville said. “We’re all in a winning business, and I think we all understand that going into it. It’ll be a tough day.”
Happy for Madden: Quenneville was happy former Blackhawk John Madden was named one of the Panthers’ new assistant coaches Friday.
Madden played for the Blackhawks during their 2009-10 Stanley Cup season.
“Mad Dog, that’s good for him,” Quenneville said. “He had that player mentality where he was workmanlike and student-like as far as how he approached not just the game, but the defensive side of the game, the penalty-killing situation. He can bring something to the plate, to the game with his enthusiasm and passion for the sport.”
CHICAGO -- Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg says he still gets treated like royalty when he comes back to Chicago as he is on Friday to take on his former team, the Blackhawks.
Versteeg joins current teammates Brian Campbell, John Madden and Tomas Kopecky in a return of former Stanley Cup champions to the building they had so much success in two seasons ago. Former Hawk Jack Skille is scheduled to play as well after being out with an injury.
“[It’s] the first time I’ve been back to the rink since Game 5 [of the Stanley Cup finals in 2010]. I remember we won Game 5 and I was looking around at the fans, and I said this is the last time we’re going to be here because we’re going to win it in Game 6,” Versteeg said after Panthers practice Friday morning at the United Center. “It’s nice to be back.”
The Hawks did win Game 6 and then the team was famously broken up due to salary cap restraints. But the bond between former teammates lives on -- and so does the friendly jabs. Jonathan Toews got together with Versteeg Thursday night after the Panthers arrived in town.
"I was willing to take him to the hair salon and get him a haircut last night, but he didn’t want to do that,” Toews joked after Hawks’ practice.
Versteeg has grown his blond hair out and says he hears it from players every night. Friday will be no exception.
“I already have Bolland telling me he’s going to be giving it to me all night about my hair,” Versteeg said. “If it takes the focus off the game, that’s a positive. As for Toews, he’s trying to get inside my head. I’m already inside his.”
Campbell is hoping for a better response from the fans in Chicago than he’s received from other former teams he’s played for. He’s been booed in Buffalo and San Jose but he didn’t help win those cities a Stanley Cup.
“It’ll be fun,” Campbell said. “These fans are the best. Hopefully we all get a nice response but then we have to get down to work.”
Though it is work, several players talked about how strange it is to face so many former teammates on one team.
“It’s almost like it’s not a real hockey game,” Kane said. “You’re out there laughing and joking around and having fun. But at the same time you want to beat them, too. It’s a little bit different but definitely fun.”
The joking and laughing around can extend to anything considering how well many of the players know each other. Kane was reminded of Versteeg’s infamous rap session during the Stanley Cup parade in June 2010.
“You call those skills?” Kane joked. “I don’t know if you can call it a skill. That was pretty embarrassing, so hopefully we don’t have to see that for a while.”
Ray Emery starts in net for the Hawks while Jose Theodore is expected to play for the Panthers.
Sharp update: Joel Quenneville said forward Patrick Sharp is making progress toward a return after the All-Star break. Sharp is out with a wrist injury.
“There are three games on that trip in four nights so hopefully he can begin it,” Quenneville said Friday morning. “We’re anticipating he’ll get started on that trip.”
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While general manager Stan Bowman may sign a veteran or two, his first order of business is his own set of free agents. In no particular order, here are the major names and the chances they’ll return for another year or more with the Hawks:
John Madden Chance of returning: 10%
Unless Madden wants to take a huge cut in pay and the Hawks return him to third line center, this match doesn’t seem to fit like it did 365 days ago. The newly acquired Marty Reasoner is under contract and takes up one of the bottom two center spots, but the other one is open for debate. Dave Bolland probably returns to the second line, which puts Patrick Sharp back at wing. There might be that opening on the third line again but Madden made $2.75 million last year. The Hawks probably won’t go higher than $1.5 million at that spot.
Adam Burish Chance of returning: 20%
Some might believe the departure of Ben Eager, and even Colin Fraser, move Burish’s value up a notch. I’m not buying it. Bryan Bickell played in front of Burish at times in the playoffs and there is nothing that says he won’t again -- at a cheaper price. Burish is entering his prime. If he wants to prove himself as more than a five-minute player, then he might want to do it somewhere else. And he’ll probably get paid more for it.
Yes, he may have been dangled, but at the end of the day he is about the only forechecking presence the Hawks have right now. And he still comes relatively cheap. His qualifying figure was around $1.6 million, though that number might make him attractive for an offer sheet. It’s hard to go wrong with a 24-year-old who already has won two Cups with two different teams. This could come down to hundreds of thousands of dollars -- not millions. If a team offers him more than $3 million, the compensation package jumps up to a first- and third-round pick. If the Hawks can afford it, they should offer him between $2-3 million and call it a day.
Jordan Hendry Chance of returning: 85%
The Blackhawks did not qualify him but do want to sign him, which means one thing: He’s not getting much of a raise -- if any – from his $650,000 salary. More likely a decrease. Since he’ll be unrestricted on July 1, there’s always the chance someone else sees more in him than the Hawks, and pays him more, but smart money says he’s back in a similar role at a similar price.
Nick Boynton Chance of returning: 50%
Not sure what the Hawks are thinking here but one thing is for sure, he won’t make $1.5 million in a Blackhawks uniform again. Maybe half that. He did pass Hendry on the depth chart at the end of the playoffs, and played well, so there could be a spot -- just for a lot less money. He’s unrestricted, so like Hendry, it depends on what others think and how much they are willing to pay.
Niklas Hjalmarsson Chance of returning: 75%
It’s hard to imagine another run at the Cup without the hammer. Reliable in all areas, he’s only getting better. Having said that, I don’t think another team breaks the bank for him. He’s not a one or a two -- yet -- and doesn’t have much in the way of power-play skills. He deserves a raise, but not a jump from $600,000 to $4-5 million. More like $2-2.5 million.
Antti Niemi Chance of returning: 65%
I thought long and hard of reducing that number but at the end of the day, I believe both sides will be fair. Make no mistake, this is the wild card. With Europe an option and unrestricted free agency just a year away, Niemi holds some leverage. A fan revolt might occur if he leaves, plus all his side has to do is point to other goalies who have accomplished a lot less and make much more. His starting point is $3 million. It goes up from there.
Bryan Bickell Chance of returning: 95%
Simple. The Hawks need him and Joel Quenneville likes him. He played some first-line minutes and can bang with the third-liners. And he’ll come cheap.
Jack Skille Chance of returning: 50%
Hard to know if the Hawks think he’s had his chance, or will give him so little money that there won’t be much downside. For some reason, I still don’t see him as a third-line player and there is no room in the top six. But as his name suggests, he does have some skills so a return wouldn’t be a surprise.
Kim Johnsson Chance of returning: 0%
No explanation needed.
A busy upcoming 10 days gets the offseason moving, and fast. It will be Bowman’s first chance to reshape the roster while keeping aspirations for a repeat alive. And boy, will he have his hands full.
First, though, is the capper to the 2009-10 season. The NHL will hold its annual awards banquet on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. Most years it’s an afterthought for Hawks fans, but not this time.
Duncan Keith is the favorite to win the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman. If he does, it will mark the first time a Blackhawk has won the award since Chris Chelios in 1996. The Hawks will most certainly receive rock star treatment in Sin City as several others will be on hand -- including Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Quenneville.
Then the page officially turns to the future when the NHL holds its draft on Friday in Los Angeles. There may be no better reminder of how a team fared the previous season than knowing their draft position. The woeful Edmonton Oilers pick first. The Hawks pick 30th. Enough said.
The Blackhawks will have eight total picks, including two in the second round and two in the seventh round but none in the fifth. Don’t discount those late picks. Dustin Byfuglien was an eighth-round pick in 2003, while energy guy Adam Burish was picked in the ninth round a year earlier.
Of course, anytime leading up to the draft -- and after -- the Hawks could be wheeling and dealing as by now the hockey world is well aware of the Hawks salary cap problems. With just 14 players signed for next year, the Hawks are basically at the ceiling of last year’s cap, and that doesn’t include Toews’ $1.3 million bonus for winning the Conn Smythe award as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Not surprisingly, league sources say interest in forwards Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg is high. Unless Bowman can pull off some Houdini-like maneuvers, at least one of them is probably gone.
Then the fun really begins as free-agency opens up on July 1. The Hawks have 10 free agents. Some outcomes for these 10 players are relatively easy to predict.
For example, more than likely John Madden will not be back. He made $2.75 million last season, which is a whopping amount for a player that finished the year on the fourth line. Plus, his leadership skills are not needed in the same way. He was brought to Chicago to show the way to the Cup. Now that he’s done it, the Hawks have a team full of leaders that can impart that knowledge to newcomers. Look for a team like Washington to come knocking on Madden’s door, asking him to do for them what he did for Chicago.
Niemi’s case is interesting if for no other reason than trying to figure out what kind of a raise -- and for how long -- he deserves. He made $827,000 last year and helped the Hawks win the Stanley Cup. There are many goaltenders with more experience and less success making a whole lot more. Jonas Hiller of Anaheim is only two years older and just signed a four-year extension for 4.5 million per year. Niemi deserves at least that much, right? After all, he did outplay a certain goaltender in Vancouver set to make $10 million this upcoming year. Bottom line: the going rate for established netminders who aren’t the best in the league is in the $5 million range. See Cristobal Huet for further evidence.
The Hawks could simply say this is our guy, let’s give him a lengthy contract and spread out his hit against the salary cap. Maybe they offer him 10 years and $35-40 million. It’s a little less than the going rate per year but it’s 35-40 million dollars! A player that two years ago was in Finland and known by almost no one outside his family might jump at that. Or, the Blackhawks might play hardball and say he was fortunate to play behind the deepest team in the league in a great city and offer him a three- or four-year deal at $3-4 million. That probably won’t be enough for Niemi but you never know.
The monkey wrench in this whole process is if the Hawks don’t sign Niemi by July 1, then other teams can come knocking. If another team offers Niemi a contract, the Hawks will have first right of refusal. If the Hawks refuse to match the offer they would be compensated for losing him. Let’s say Niemi gets an offer for at least $3 million per season, then the Hawks would receive a first-, second- and third-round pick in return. Not bad. If he’s offered more than $4 million, add another first-round pick to the compensation package. Those are pretty steep numbers and considering a team might be able to get him after next year for nothing -- when he’ll be unrestricted -- it’s less likely there will be many bidders.
One thing is for sure: If Niemi signs a one-year deal, then he is as good as gone after next season. You don’t make a Stanley Cup winning goaltender prove himself again, leading into his unrestricted season, and not expect him to leave.
As for the other goaltender under contract, the Hawks could send Huet to the minors next season and pay him $5.6 million to play there. If that were to happen his salary would not count against the cap. If he hasn’t cleared waivers already, he will shortly, and the Hawks could buy him out. In that case, some of his remaining contract would then count against the salary cap and would hamper the Hawks moving forward. Best case scenario for all involved -- except maybe Rocky Wirtz -- is Huet plays in Europe. The Hawks would still have to pay him his full salary, but they could receive a minimal amount back from the team he plays for.
Restricted free agent Niklas Hjalmarsson is in a similar situation as Niemi, although he’s several years younger. He made $666,000 and is a due for a decent raise. Another team, measuring the Hawks cap problems, could sneak in for an amount the Hawks don’t want to match.
Andrew Ladd made $1.6 million last year and could return for a similar amount or the Hawks might want to save on at least half that salary and let him go. He’s going to want a raise but there might not be much left in the cupboard for him.
Burish probably won’t be back with the Hawks either. A healthy scratch for some of the playoffs, he can find more playing time on another team. Burish might even try his hand as a third-line player. He was a key penalty-killer for the Hawks before they acquired Marian Hossa and Madden. In fact, he was one of the better ones on the Blackhawks roster.
These are just some of the issues facing Bowman and his staff as the offseason heats up. Change is coming. The only question left is, how much, and for whom?
The Philadelphia Flyers showed some heart and hunger this time, winning a tight-knit affair in overtime 4-3 to close within one in the series. The Hawks still lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 here on Friday.
Chalk up Game 3 to another one that could have gone either way, but thanks to Claude Giroux, the Flyers are back in it.
Philadelphia played the way it is supposed to with its backs against the wall -- desperate. Even when they got down for the first time in the game, 3-2 early in the third, they responded quickly to tie the game and then they went on to dominate the rest of the period, out-shooting the Hawks 15-4 but Niemi was the man again and carried it over to overtime.
The Flyers led 1-0 and 2-1 thanks to power-play goals as the Hawks play with the man advantage was stuck in neutral but when Patrick Kane scored on a breakaway early in the third, it looked like the Hawks were on their way. Twenty seconds later, Ville Leino tied it and sent the game to overtime.
A huge score by the Hawks came off of Brent Sopel’s stick after a faceoff win by John Madden. The fourth line and Sopel were on the ice so once again, depth comes into play for Chicago. Tomas Kopecky, Ben Eager and now Sopel have huge scores in the first three games, all one-goal affairs.
The Chicago Blackhawks' top line since the conference semifinals had, by far, its worst game of the playoffs and the home team didn’t get even one power-play attempt. And yet they still won.
Depth is the name of the game, and the Hawks proved to have plenty of it again. Stop our top line, we have two more that can hurt you.
The Flyers had some answers, but not enough to win the game.
By all accounts, the layoff, the emotions, and the unfamiliarity of the two opponents contributed to the wide open affair in the first 40 minutes. But the Hawks got better as the game went along, culminating in a solid final 20.
Something was off with the Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien line. They were outplayed by Daniel Briere’s line and after the game, coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words.
"You look at the lines tonight, that was the one line I think out of the four that needed to be better," Quenneville said. "That [Bolland] line was good. Sharpy [Sharp], Mad Dog [John Madden]. That [Toews] line can really improve off of today's game."
Kane in particular could improve the most. He took a bad penalty and got lazy on the Briere goal with 30 seconds to go in the first period.
Speaking of penalties, just like in San Jose in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, it’s possible a couple could have been called against the opponent, but the four the Hawks took were bad.
Ben Eager came out for blood, hitting everything in site but got carried away with a cross check. Adam Burish incurred his first minor of his playoff career with a bad boarding infraction behind the play. Kane’s slash and Brian Campbell’s high stick weren’t exactly the type that were taken to save a goal against. That has to be better.
"It’s something we talk about," Duncan Keith said after the game. "Sooner or later we have to do it."
Having said that, to stay out of the box but come out even in the special teams battle has to be demoralizing for the Philadelphia Flyers. No one knew it would be a one-goal Hawks victory, but the short-handed goal by Bolland turned out to be a key moment in the game.
"[Braydon] Coburn was fumbling it," Bolland said. "I poked it right out of him. The ice was pretty bad. ... it was fumbling around but I got a grip of it and went in and scored."
Antti Niemi seemed a bit shell shocked by the Flyers skill but recovered to finish strong.
"Especially in the first, they came really strong," Niemi said. "Maybe they had the best speed so far [in the playoffs]."
And that’s the other issue. Philadelphia showed more offensive punch than certainly San Jose and maybe even the Vancouver Canucks. The only problem? Their top line did not contribute in a close loss. They can’t be happy with that result.
So Richards and Toews cancel each other out in Game 1. No one would have thought it would be in a negative way, but that’s how it turned out. Safe to say, both will have better nights to come, but if not, the Hawks can always rely on someone else. They did on Saturday.
At the end of the day, and maybe the series, the Hawks' offensive fortunes might lie at the feet of Flyers’ goaltending.
Michael Leighton was simply not a championship netminder in Game 1. Can you recall one big save he made in his short stint?
Four of the goals he gave up screamed a need for a big stop, and he couldn’t come up with one. Both Brouwer tallies as well as Bolland’s breakaway and Sharp’s two-on-one score were not easy saves to be made. But a goalie has to make one. Not all four, or even three, or two, but one big save can make the difference.
Who starts Game 2 for Philadelphia is anyone’s guess.
Whether it goes away or not we’ll find out in less than two weeks, but both parties have done enough talking and say they are ready for the Stanley Cup finals to begin.
“I feel good,” winger John Madden said after the Hawks final practice on Saturday morning. “I feel excited. It’s been a long couple days not being able to play hockey. We’re excited it’s here. Game 1. We can finally start answering questions after the game about what happened out there instead of the same questions over and over so we’re pretty excited about it.”
Madden says the Blackhawks will try to keep things as normal as possible leading up to faceoff.
The team will stay in a hotel Saturday afternoon before returning to the United Center.
“We tried it in the San Jose series so we’ll see how it goes,” coach Joel Quenneville stated.
Quenneville says he doesn’t have any Knute Rockne speeches prepared for pregame. Again, treating it like just another game or beginning of a series, is the Hawks preferred strategy.
“We don’t change too much the flavor of how we approach games or going in between series,” Quenneville explained. “I think the guys have been really diligent with their preparation and their focus has been in the right place.”
What about nerves? There’s sure to be a few.
“You’d be different if you weren’t nervous for this,” Madden stated. “You have to be nervous for this but in a good way, though, and channel it the right way. You don’t want to be that nervous guy that doesn’t want to go on the ice. You want to be that guy that is nervous because he’s excited to play hockey and just chasing a dream.”
Adam Burish concurs.
“Nerves can be a good thing for this group,” he said. “Like when Jonathan Toews get nervous he gets dialed in and he’s unstoppable sometimes. Once you get on the ice that’s where everyone is most comfortable. Some guys get more nervous talking in front of the camera than being on the ice.”
Quenneville thinks with the layoff and the stakes, the first few minutes of the game will be interesting.
“Everybody needs a couple of shifts under their belt playing hockey,” Quenneville said. “Lot of talk here all week long. That’s what we’re looking for, just to play.”
For some players, the night before the finals begin wasn’t a big deal -- Dave Bolland said he was out cold at 10 pm Friday night -- for others the phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
“[It] rang more than normal,” Burish said. “My sister called me to wish me luck and cut me back down to size. She said, ‘You’re not that cool. What did you do today?’ So she gave it to me. And some buddies called.”
Patrick Sharp says all his business is taken care of.
“Everyone has everything figured out for logistics and family and stuff like that” he said. “We’ve done enough scouting and talking about the other team … we’re happy the moment is here.”
They’ll play the moment -- at least for now -- without Andrew Ladd. Unable to practice again on Saturday, he’s been declared out for Game 1. Tomas Kopecky takes his place.
“Tough loss with Laddy [Ladd] but Kopy [Kopecky] is a big body with some nice hands,” Dave Bolland said. “We can utilize him. It is a bit of a different rhythm but we mixed up the lines all season. I played with Kopecky so I know how he plays.”
Bolland, Kopecky, and Kris Versteeg will start together as the Hawks checking line. The former two along with Ladd were a vital piece to the Hawks defensive puzzle in previous rounds.
“We have options,” Quenneville said. “We’ll see. I know [we have] Hossa or you could look at Brouwer [going there]. We have other options as well. We’ll probably begin like that and go from there.”
So the game plan is in -- look for Bolland to check Mike Richards -- and tickets have been distributed. Families have arrived from all over the world and Hawk fans are as hungry as ever. There’s only one thing left to do. The veteran Madden will address it.
“Have fun. It’s a chance of a lifetime.”
That it is.
Media day was quite a site at the United Center on Thursday. Both teams, separately of course, available to a seemingly endless sea of reporters that have descended on Chicago.
Each player was given a small podium or table to sit at while he could be interviewed by waves of reporters. The result? Many of the same questions asked over and over again. Somehow Dustin Byfuglien gave different answers to the same question. That’s a joke. Well, sort of.
Here are some highlights. First, the Hawks:
Speaking of redundant questions Marian Hossa was asked which one he’s gotten more: His lack of goals in the postseason or the fact that this is his third finals appearance in a row without a win.
“I think it’s been pretty even,” Hossa said with a laugh. “Those two questions I’ve been asked the most.”
And which one bothers him more?
“Definitely scoring the goals but most important is the four wins,” he said. “I hope I can contribute offensively.”
Not far from Hossa sat Andrew Ladd, available for the first time since injuring what appeared to be his left shoulder in Game 4 against San Jose. He says he’s day to day but he also had some insight into a Peter Laviolette coached team. Ladd won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 when Laviolette was the head coach.
“What you notice is pace of the game,” Ladd said. “They play at a high level. They’re not afraid to trade chances. Its one thing he stressed a lot in Carolina. You have to take chances in a game.”
That sounds like a system the Hawks will enjoy competing against.
Ben Eager agreed with Adam Burish’s assessment from the day before: the Flyers will play edgier than maybe any team they’ve seen so far, but like Burish, Eager isn’t going to be stupid about it.
“It’s not going to be dirty,” Eager said. “You can’t take a bad penalty in the Stanley Cup Finals. I think there is going to be a lot of hard, honest play.”
Duncan Keith had the media masses attending to him and it can’t be easy for him. A half hour of answering questions with no front teeth is a difficult proposition. So is eating.
“I haven’t had any problems eating,” Keith said. “Well, I shouldn’t say that. I’ve been able to get the food down but it’s been more of a struggle eating the food, but it still ends up in my stomach.”
The timing could not have been worse.
“Just before all the media comes in I get my teeth knocked out,” he said. “I guess that’s something more to talk about.”
John Madden has become a go to guy in the playoffs. A coach in training, he could break down a pee wee team. He took a stab at the Flyers.
“They can play it any way you want,” Madden said of Philadelphia. “They can bring it physically or use their speed. They can trap it up. They have a lot of depth. A lot of similarities to what we have over here.”
Trap it up? That sounds like Nashville or Vancouver in Game 5. Wasn’t that the game Patrick Kane said the Canucks used a fake forecheck to fool them.
“Let’s get one thing clear,” Madden declared. “I’ve never heard anyone say fake forecheck until Kaner brought it up. That’s new to me. I bug him about it all the time. Fake forecheck. C’mon.”
Madden has been through it all having won two Cups with New Jersey and he says he’s still getting the late call for tickets.
“You still get people calling you the morning of,” Madden explained. “‘Hey you got any extra tickets laying around?’ They think you get an abundance of tickets, like I’m going to hand them out like sweetarts. No, you try to handle all that stuff prior to the day before [the game].”
Finally, there are those still wondering about Kim Johnsson. Stan Bowman was asked to expound on his injury and why he isn’t with the team.
“We really don’t talk about injuries,” Bowman said. “We haven’t done that. It’s not a good time to start now. When guys are injured they are not available to play so that’s that. Unfortunately, that’s part of the game. You see it night after night. Guys go down with different injuries. It’s unfortunate but that’s part of hockey. You deal with it and you move on with the guys that are healthy.”
The Hawks moved out and the Flyers moved in for their turn with the fourth estate. Former Hawk Michael Leighton is taking things in stride.
“I’m confident but I’m not overconfident,” he said. “I know I’m not the reason we won the last series. Defensive hockey wins games. We’re a very good defensive team.”
Leighton has fond memories of playing in Chicago and like most he enjoys the noise during the anthem, however, when he played here several years ago, there wasn’t much noise.
“We had a couple games against Detroit that were sold out,” Leighton said. “Half were probably Detroit fans but when it’s a good crowd its very loud.”
The captain of the Flyers, Mike Richards had many people around him as well. Soft spoken off the ice, he’s a fierce competitor on it. He had high praise for his counterpart on the Hawks and repeated what we already know about number 19.
“[It’s] How he handles himself,” Richards said. “How tenacious he is on the puck and how hard he works off the ice. He’s a very hockey oriented person. He lives and breathes hockey and that’s a good thing. It’s why he’s had so much success.”
Sarcasm and Chris Pronger go hand in hand. He and Brent Seabrook bonded at the Canada’s Olympic camp in Calgary before the season. In fact, they were roommates and Seabrook credited Pronger with helping him along.
“It was his first one,” Pronger said. “He was a little nervous as to be expected…I didn’t know him at all. I talked to him about the game. We would come back after practice and talk about things. Different situations and stuff.”
Time was running down so to get the scoop on a couple of former Flyers, Jeff Carter was asked the first thing he thinks of when he hears the names Patrick Sharp and Ben Eager.
“Sharp Dog, eh? He’s scary,” Carter joked. “Highly skilled guy with speed to kill. You give him time and space he’ll make you pay.”
“Eags is a good man. I’ve seen that beard before. We’re actually really good friends. He’s a heart and soul guy. He bangs and crashes and does whatever it takes for the team.”
And that ended media day for the 2010 Stanley Cup finals.
It's an attempt to bring the Blackhawks' road mentality back home with them. Chicago has won seven straight road playoff games, tying an NHL record. Meanwhile, the Hawks have struggled at the United Center, going 3-3 in the postseason.
Read the full story.
"We couldn’t make, I guess I’ll say, a 10-foot pass all night." -- Joel Quenneville after the 4-1 loss in Game 5
CHICAGO -- That statement said it all. The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t play downright awful but they didn’t play the way a team trying to send its opponent home for the summer should play.
It was the little things that came back to haunt them, starting with faceoffs and other fundamentals.
The Hawks lost 58 percent of their faceoffs, including a critical one by Dave Bolland in the first minute of the game that led to a Christian Ehrhoff goal. Bolland won only two of 13 draws all night. That wasn’t the only problem.
"We got zapped right off the bat with what went on, and we didn’t respond right after that," Quenneville said. "We had some excitement in the building we didn’t take advantage of, and we were on the receiving end.
"I think we were looking for a little bit more than was out there. We were looking for pretty plays instead of simplicity."
We’ve heard that before. In the Nashville series and at different times during the season when the Hawks didn’t put forth the kind of effort they usually do. They got cute instead of working hard.
"We didn’t control the game the way we wanted to," Jonathan Toews said. "When you work hard and doing everything right, you get bounces and pucks find you, but we didn’t do that tonight."
Give some credit to the Canucks. They didn’t get to over 100 points in the regular season by taking bad penalties every night. They played disciplined and adjusted their game to slow down the Hawks.
"They made a few changes," John Madden said. "A few neutral zone changes. We were sitting back. Not initiating like we normally do."
"We were a step behind all night," Brian Campbell said. "Too much one on one play."
In some ways this game was reminiscent of Game 3 last postseason against Vancouver. After two wild affairs in Vancouver, the Canucks shut down their skating attack and played a more defensive style. It stymied the Hawks for one game -- until they were able to make adjustments.
This isn’t that different. The Hawks just completed two games in Vancouver with an attacking style that drew power plays but now were forced into more of a slow down. Remember what Campbell said: "We were a step behind all night."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault pushed the right buttons in Game 5, now it's Quenneville’s turn to respond.
"Playing catch-up played right into their hands," coach Joel Quenneville said.
It’s almost as if the Hawks forgot what kind of offense the Vancouver Canucks possess or were so used to the Predators that they needed a game to adjust.
"We were slow out there," Duncan Keith said. "Right from the start. We were slow to react, slow to loose pucks, slow everywhere. For whatever reason we weren’t moving out there."
Or maybe the Canucks were moving so fast it made the Hawks look slow. Kind of like jumping from a hot tub into a pool. You know you're going to feel the cold and there's nothing you can do about it. There wasn't much the Hawks could do about the Canucks' offensive attack.
"We didn't manage [the puck] well in all zones," Quenneville said. "I thought the first three goals against us were all plays that technically or mentally we played very poorly."
That's pretty blunt but mostly correct. John Madden knows a little something about playing defense and he didn't see much of it on Saturday.
"The better defense you play, the more frustrated they'll get, and you'll get more chances out of it," Madden stated. "We need to drill that in our heads and go from there."
Of course, if Antti Niemi can smother a puck or two maybe the first period goes a little different. Still, that wouldn’t solve any of the offensive woes of the evening. Exorcising some Game 6 demons, Roberto Luongo did what he does best when he’s on: stop pucks.
"Yeah, maybe," Patrick Kane said of Luongo stealing that first period. "He played really well tonight. You have to give him credit. ... Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the goaltender and say good job to him."
Seventeen stops in the first. You could make the case the game was won right there.
"Big difference tonight was we were able to finish and they weren’t," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
It marked the second straight playoff series this year and fourth in a row overall where the Hawks lost the opening game, including to this Vancouver team a year ago.
"We're still a confident group," Keith said. "We know tonight wasn't good enough and that can’t happen again. It's happened before in the Nashville series and its happening again. We have to look at it in a positive way and know we have another shot at it at home, next time."
So once again the Hawks need to use a mulligan to get back into the match. If Vancouver is indeed better than last year—as most Hawks would admit—than dropping home games so easily may be harder to recover from than previously.
"Put it this way, it can't get any worse," Keith said.
But can it get better?