Blackhawks aware Wild not the same team from past playoff battles


Blackhawks aware Wild not the same team from past playoff battles

When the Blackhawks faced the Minnesota Wild in the 2013 Western Conference quarterfinals, most had a pretty good idea of how the series would go.

The Blackhawks were entering the postseason with a head of steam; it was the lockout-shortened season in which the Blackhawks started on a 21-0-3 tear and never looked back. The Wild, meanwhile, had to fight until game No. 48 to get into the postseason. So it wasn’t surprising that the Blackhawks eliminated Minnesota in five games that spring.

Much has changed since then. Last year when the two teams met, it was much closer with the Blackhawks fighting all the way to send the Wild home in six games. And considering how the Wild came on the second half of this season, the Blackhawks are expecting the tussle of their postseason lives in this round.

Indeed, this is not your older brother’s Minnesota Wild.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“You can see from the regular season, how they got in the playoffs and how they played in thefirst round, [that] it’s going to be a different team than the previous years,” Bryan Bickell said. “So we’re excited to be in the second round and have home ice.”

The Blackhawks face a very tricky test in the Wild. In the last two regular-season meetings (aka the Devan Dubnyk era), the Wild beat the Blackhawks both times, holding them to just one goal. The Wild also enter this series as confident as the Blackhawks do; Minnesota eliminated the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 on Sunday afternoon with Dubnyk and Zach Parise having a noticeably strong series. Dubnyk went 4-2-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Parise had three goals and four assists in those six games, including two goals on Sunday.

[MORE: Crawford in net for Game 1 vs. Wild]

“We feel like it’s going to be a long, hard-fought series but you never know. Anything can happen,” Corey Crawford said. “We have to be prepared to play our best. That team’s been getting better and better every year.”

The Wild is a different team than it was two seasons ago. Actually, it’s not even the same Wild team the Blackhawks faced five months ago; the Wild’s resurgence from mid-January until now was astounding. The Blackhawks are taking the Wild very seriously, as well they should.

“They’re a good hockey team and they had an amazing run to get into the playoffs. They’ve got a lot of confidence. They play an excellent team game. They’ve got some speed, quickness. They’ve gained a lot of momentum at this time of the year off what they’ve achieved,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think we’re very familiar with their team, what they’re capable of doing and knowing that we’ve got a great challenge in front of us.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”