MORRISSEY: Blackhawks make up after breakup
BY RICK MORRISSEY | firstname.lastname@example.org June 19, 2013 11:32PM
Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville instructs his team during the second period in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins, Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Updated: June 20, 2013 8:16AM
BOSTON — This was a chance for Joel Quenneville to atone for his hockey sins. Nobody else. Oh, sure, Jonathan Toews needed to play better Wednesday in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. So did Patrick Kane. Bryan Bickell, too.
But the Blackhawks’ coach had been having a worse Final than any of them. He led the first three games in head-scratching decisions, indecision and a general failure to react quickly.
It took him three games to realize that, you know what, maybe putting Toews and Kane back together on the same line might not be a bad idea. At a bare minimum, Quenneville was a game late with the decision to put the high-scoring pair back together.
Wednesday night rolled around, and sure enough, there was Toews deflecting a Michal Rozsival slap shot past the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask in the second period. Well, duh.
And sure enough, there was Kane backhanding a rebound past Rask two minutes later. Well, duh, the sequel.
And there was Kane getting an assist on Brent Seabrook’s game-winner in overtime, helped along by Toews’ ferocious battling in front of the net.
Add up all the duhs, and you have a wild 6-5 victory that gave the Hawks more breathing room in a series tied 2-2.
“They seem to have some chemistry,’’ Quenneville said of Toews and Kane.
Remember, the duo was excellent late in the Western Conference final against the Kings. Kane had a hat trick in the series-clinching Game 5, with Toews assisting on two of the goals. Quenneville’s decision to break them up for the Bruins series was borderline insanity. Let’s at least agree that it was the height of needless tinkering. You could just see Coach Q cracking his knuckles like a concert pianist.
“You always get second-guessed, and there are reasons why [Toews and Kane were split up],’’ he said after the victory. “At the same time, we didn’t mind the way we played the first game and the first part of the second game. Game 3, we were disappointed with our offense.
“So we went to the well, and I’m sure they’re excited about returning together and made me look like I knew what I was doing.’’
He laughed, but it was the laugh of someone who had just avoided getting hit by a bus. What had gone on in Games 2 and 3 was no laughing matter, and what made it even darker was Quenneville’s intractability when it came to Toews and Kane. The players were more sympathetic.
“From a coaching standpoint, I think you’re always looking for different matchups, so you can understand where they’re coming from when they split us up after the last series,’’ Kane said. “But I thought it was a game [where] we needed to get some excitement.’’
They certainly did, and if Quenne-ville breaks up that line again, there could be rioting in Chicago.
“We contributed the way that we want to contribute,’’ Kane said. “At the same time, playing with each other for the first time in a little while again, we feel we can get even better.’’
Even Marian Hossa was back healthy, or as healthy as he can be from whatever it was that kept him out of Game 3, not that Quenneville was saying. The Hossa-Ben Smith mess wasn’t his brightest hour.
Quenneville said the team was ready for the possibility that Hossa might not play, but afterward, Smith said he didn’t find out he was playing in Game 3 until Hossa left during warm-ups. He said he didn’t finish getting dressed until just before the game. Quenneville said he didn’t want to tip his hand about who was playing. It sounded more like backpedaling, or back-skating.
Throw in the awful power play, and you had a coach who looked lost three games into the Final. That’s why Quenneville needed this game so badly. He needed to find his equilibrium and right the ship.
The Hawks came out firing. The goals by Toews and Kane gave them a 3-1 lead that looked like it might hold up. All the momentum seemed to be on their side. It wasn’t. It didn’t come back for good until Seabrook’s game-winner 9:51 into overtime.
The craziness of the night put all the focus on what was happening on the ice. But those of us who watched the first three games couldn’t help but look at Quenneville now and then to make sure he wasn’t about to do something rash again.