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Hits, suspensions, chirping ... what's next?

4/19/2012

CHICAGO -- If you’re having trouble keeping track of all the storylines in the quarterfinal series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes you’re probably not alone.

Big hits and discipline hearings have replaced power plays and penalty kills for water cooler -- and social media -- conversation. For the Hawks, they rightly feel they’ve come out on the short end of all the shenanigans. After finding out Marian Hossa wasn’t seriously injured, Joel Quenneville’s attention turned to the referees and their inability to see the hit that caused his star to leave on a stretcher.

“The refereeing was a disgrace,” he declared after a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3.

Andrew Shaw was given a major penalty, kicked out of the game and subsequently suspended after hitting goalie Mike Smith in the helmet in Game 2. Until Game 4 begins, the Coyotes have yet to feel the consequences of Raffi Torres’ actions. He wasn’t penalized or kicked out, nor were the Coyotes shorthanded.

In fact, Phoenix was given a power play of its own when Brandon Bollig jumped Torres, though he did little damage to him. Quenneville was asked on Wednesday how big that 10-minute swing of penalties was in a series in which no team has led by more than a goal.

“Twelve minutes,” he responded without a pause. “But who’s counting?”

The media in attendance all laughed as Quenneville referenced the extra two minutes Bollig received but the coach was about the only one not laughing. He knows the series hangs in the balance and now the Hawks will have to fight back from a 2-1 series deficit without Hossa.

“We’re all angry [Wednesday],” Quenneville said. “Me included. It’s a little different than last night’s anger. We want to channel it to a little positiveness about it and looking forward to the game and doing something about it.”

Quenneville is referring to the scoreboard and not retaliation. If the Hawks wanted to do that, Game 3 was their chance. Everyone in the building knew Torres wouldn’t be playing in another game soon so the Hawks had to get to him on Tuesday. They chose not to -- especially after Bollig took a penalty when he tried.

“It’s a playoff game, it’s a one-goal game, there is an instigator rule,” Jamal Mayers said. “Don’t really know what else you’d like guys to do … The most important thing is winning the game.”

And that’s where the Hawks’ attention should turn. The possibility for retribution on Torres is in the past, now it’s time to focus on hockey again. Not on Shaw, Torres, Hossa or Mike Smith. There’s little doubt the

Coyotes are thinking about going up 3-1 and heading back home to close the series out.

“The one thing our group is very focused on is making sure it doesn’t overshadow everything,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We’re a focused group. Today we had zero talk about what the league is doing with suspensions or this or that. Our focus is on what we have to do to play better [Thursday night] in Game 4.”

The Hawks need similar focus.

“I think retaliations in the best form are trying to win the hockey game,” Quenneville said.

A series of events have led the Hawks to using young phenom Brandon Saad in Game 4. Think about it. How many teams have employed fifth-round (Shaw) and second-round (Saad) picks from their most recent draft as key components in a playoff series? Shaw will watch for two more games as Saad makes his playoff debut and then maybe they’ll take the ice together. Only through Shaw’s suspension and Hossa’s injury is Saad getting a chance. But that’s where another great storyline could be born.

That’s all this series needs. A new chapter to add to a new and budding rivalry. Big hits, big suspensions, plenty of chirping and now a teenager gets his moment in the spotlight. The only question is: What’s the next storyline to emerge? Just wait for Game 4, it’s coming.