Quenneville plays key role in turnaround
ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
|Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville stands behind his players during a game. (QMI Agency files)
CHICAGO -- When the Chicago Blackhawks were down 3-0 and the series was all but over, coach Joel Quenneville had strange instructions for a hockey team that wasn't showing enough urgency.
And don't worry about Vancouver, worry about the guy in the next stall.
"He didn't come in here pouting, because then we'd be like, 'Oh man, this is done,'" said defenceman Brian Campbell. "He came in here with a fresh attitude and said, 'Hey guys, let's get going here. Look what other teams have done and maybe you can follow in their footsteps.' He boosted the morale in the locker room."
It helped them get to a Game 6 nobody ever expected to see. As much as the players deserve credit for extending the series, they say Quenneville's leadership really stopped the bleeding.
"He just stressed trying to win for the guys you've worked beside all year round," said centre Ryan Johnson. "It's a very simple message but a great message. That really brought us to life going into Game 4."
One of the biggest losses in a Chicago off-season full of them was supposed to be Stanley Cup playoff hero Antti Niemi. He's not. Rookie replacement Corey Crawford is filling the void quite nicely while Niemi, hooked twice in three games for his new team in San Jose, is struggling.
"I've just gone with the experience I've gained throughout the season," said Crawford, who allowed two goals in Game 4 and posted shut out the Canucks in Game 5. "I'm not really thinking about (playoffs) during the game -- once you get in the game, you're just focusing on your job and focusing on stopping pucks and then all the rest kind of goes away."
Crawford even earned a tip of the mask from Roberto Luongo, a fellow Montrealer who, like the 'Hawks goalie, works with goaltending coach Francois Allaire.
"He's a great guy, he's very laid back and a very honest, good goaltender," Luongo said. "He doesn't make mistakes; he's very textbook and has good position on the pucks. I've worked with him a long time in Montreal and I was surprised he didn't make the NHL sooner than this."
Duncan Keith, having scored the Scott Niedermayer hat-trick in the last year -- winning a gold medal, a Norris Trophy, and a Stanley Cup -- doesn't look at all like a player who's had his fill of success.
With four goals and two assists in the three games leading up to Game 6, he's been Chicago's best player by a bunch.
"He's just playing his best hockey," said Jonathan Toews. "We were just saying it's been a while since we've seen him play that well. He was all over the place (in Game 5). There wasn't anything he wasn't doing. He's been deadly with his shot from the point, and whether it's on the power play or penalty kill, he's our top guy right now."
Toews had no goals in the first five games of the series and has just one in the last 12 games dating back to the regular season.
"We're not worried about him at all," said Patrick Kane. "He's playing great and getting chances. I thought last game might have been his best game.
"One thing about Johnny is he plays the same way all the time, whether he's scoring or not. He really competes every shift, he's really good defensively, is awesome on faceoffs and he's in front of the goaltender a lot. He's the last guy we're worried about."