Quenneville Ducks Accountability During Post-Game

CHICAGO – Most of the “Original Six rivalry” and “young vs. old” hype that was orchestrated by the NHL to promote the Red Wings Detroit/Chicago Western Conference Finals series was laid to rest well before the final seconds mercifully ticked off the clock for Sunday’s Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks Game Four.

Not many teams in professional sports have the depth and resiliency of the Red Wings.

Playing without their Captain Nicklas Lidstrom and two of their Alternate Captains Kris Draper and Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings still were able to take the young, inexperienced Blackhawks to school, cake-walking to a lopsided 6-1 win at the United Center in Chicago.

Instead of pointing fingers at his young players and demanding accountability to light a spark before the next game, Coach Joel Quenneville instead showed the same immaturity as his players and took the gutless route of blaming a referee for his team’s lackluster performance.

“Worst call in the history of sports at the end of the second period,” said the mentally-drained coach during his obligatory post-game press conference. “They [the refs] ruined a great hockey game. It was that call. I have never seen anything like it”.

Really. Haven’t seen anything like it?

How about the bad call just 48 hours earlier when a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty was called on Niklas Kronwall after he legally laid out Blackhawk Martin Havlat, knocking him into opening faceoff 2010?

The call on Kronwall affected the game. It handed a five-minute power play to the Blackhawks and sent Kronwall to the locker room early in the game. In case you missed it, the call Quennville is referring to is a two-minute minor that was called at the end of the period.

It was the play when several players congregated with what the announcers like to refer to as “a little face-washing”. It was the play where Blackhawks star Patrick Kane glided in and speared a Red Wing player in the back, was scolded by a referee but was let off the hook.

I agree that the referees made a mistake; the call should have been on Kane but either way the referees were doing what they need to do in a game where things could explode any minute; they were keeping control of the game and calling it tight. It is Quenneville’s job to know that and to communicate that to his players so they don’t self-implode like they did on Sunday.

With immature comments like Quenneville made during his post-game press conference, it’s confirms that the Blackhawks organization lacks leadership in the locker room and behind the bench.

Instead of taking part of the blame and demanding accountability from his players, Quenneville offered his youngsters a lame excuse for the loss, a two-minute minor penalty called midway through the game. In addition to accountability, adjustments need to be made between periods and game plans need tweaking throughout a series, things Quenneville has been unable to do and his frustration shows that.

A call may possibly have bearing on the outcome of an evenly-played game like the “too-many men on the ice” penalty that was called in the final minutes of a classic Boston Bruins/Montreal Canadians Finals game during the late 70’s. That game was tied at the time of the call and Montreal scored and went on to win that contest and the series.

This game however was much different then that night in Montreal. This contest was an embarrassing blowout and the ice was tilted towards the Blackhakwks goal from the opening faceoff. Quenneville’s Blackhawks lost because they were dominated, outclassed and outskated by older but wiser legs.

You have to sense ex-Red Wing coach Scotty Bowman hovering over Quenneville and the Blackhawks as they self-destruct during the most crucial time of the season.

Bowman, who was behind the Montreal bench in that late 70’s match-up against the Bruins, had a much different style than Quennville’s. Bowman demanded accountability from his players and went as far as trading team sniper Dino Ciccarelli and assigning forward Sergei Federov to play defense until he learned to be a two-way player.

The Blackhawks are deservingly the talk of the NHL this year after creating the youngest roster in the league, setting franchise records during the season and carrying that momentum into the playoffs. They defeated the Calgary Flames and upset the #3 seed Vancouver Canucks to advance to the Western Conference Finals against Detroit.

Young rosters can keep a locker room loose but being too wet behind the ears can also have disadvantages like we are seeing in this series.

None of their players, or Coach Quenneville for that matter, were capable of stepping up and calming down the raucous bunch of youths as the team was called for 13 minor penalties (nine of them for roughing) and two players were sent to the showers early–Kris Versteeg (10-minute misconduct) and Ben Eager (two 10-minute misconducts and a game misconduct).

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you cannot give a team like the Red Wings a bunch of power play opportunities and expect to steal another win.

While Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Draper watched from the sidelines, several of the Red Wings stepped up closing the holes they had left in the roster.

Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg each emerged from scoring droughts netting two goals each while Valtteri Filppula, playing in Datsyuk’s spot, scored his 1st of the playoffs and set up both of Hossa’s goals.

At times the game looked reminiscent of the first two games of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Like those contests, Detroit glided around the ice at will, uncontested, sharing the puck like a passing drill until someone felt like firing a shot. Their puck control dominance tamed the sold-out United Center crowd and took the fans right out of the game.

Multi-million dollar UFA signee Cristobal Huet started his first playoff game since 2008 and was chased after giving up the fourth Red Wing goal. He was replaced by a kid named Corey Crawford who looks so young, I expected the referees to ask for signed parental permission for him to play in the game.

The first shot the youngster faced beat him clean and rang off two goalposts before he, like Huet, fell victim to the dominate Red Wings. Crawford gave up one goal on 7 shots before being replaced by Huet at the start of the 3rd period.

The Blackhawks looked totally lost throughout the game. From Coach Joel Quenneville looking stunned behind the bench to Patrick Kane (one SOG and 3 giveaways) to their 20-year-old captain Jonathon Toews, the NHL’s youngest captain who wasn’t even born when Red Wing Chris Chelios began playing in the NHL.

Chelios, the Chicago native, saw action Sunday for the first time in this Original Six series skating 6 shifts for 4:37 minutes of ice time. He was greeted with a chorus of boos whenever he touched the puck-a little left-over bitterness for him leaving the Windy City to play for the rival Red Wings a decade ago.

For formality purposes, Game Five will be in Detroit on Wednesday.

In the meantime, let’s hope if there is a Red Wing vs. Penguins rematch, it can live up to whatever hype the NHL creates for it, unlike this Conference Finals dud.

Otherwise NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be looking at another Stanley Cup Finals beaten in the Neilson Ratings by a cartoon with a guy named Sponge Bob.

Copyright © 2009 – Sports Climax

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