Blackhawks

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has long been a player's coach

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Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has long been a player's coach

Kelly Chase remembers that final game of the 1997-98 regular season.

The former St. Louis Blues forward was due a $40,000 bonus if he finished the season plus-10. Trouble was, coach Joel Quenneville thought Chase had gotten that needed point the previous game – Chase had, but he then lost it – and Chase wasn’t scheduled to play in the finale against Anaheim.

“I skated all afternoon the last game with the extras,” Chase recalled. “He wasn’t going to play me because he thought I was at plus-10.”

But teammate Geoff Courtenall let Quenneville know Chase was one plus shy. Quenneville immediately called Chase at his hotel room and told him he was back in the lineup.

“I played and at the end of the game, they pulled their goalie and Q put me on with [Pierre] Turgeon and [Brett] Hull,” Chase said. “And I got a plus and I got my bonus.”

Quenneville has long been described as a player’s coach. Obviously a big part of that comes from Quenneville being a former player himself but Ray Ferraro said there’s more to it than just that.

“There’s always a common sense and a real sensibility to Joel that a lot of coaches seem to lose when they step five feet off the ice and get behind the bench. It strikes me as Joel remembering the struggles of a player and how hard it is,” said Ferraro, who was Quenneville’s teammate in Hartford and who played for him in St. Louis in 2001-02. “Players understand which coaches have completely forgotten what it’s like to play and they appreciate when someone doesn’t forget.”

[MORE Q: How Quenneville got his coaching start]

Quenneville is in the midst of another successful season with the Blackhawks. He recently signed a three-year extension that takes him through 2019-20 and is now the second all-time winningest coach in NHL history with 783 victories. For those who have played for Quenneville, then or now, the success is well deserved.

“I guess a number of us in here have been playing for him for a long time and had a lot of success together,” said Jonathan Toews. “It's cool. I think you hear about different milestones – different guys getting to 1,000 games or 1,000 points or winning Stanley Cups – you feel close to your teammates. But I think when your coach reaches a milestone like that, I mean, that's incredible. We're happy and honored to be a part of that and obviously to have helped him, to a certain degree, get there.”

Quenneville has hoisted four Stanley Cups as a coach – his first as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche – three with the Blackhawks. Some say Quenneville’s had his success in Chicago largely because of the star-filled roster he’s coached all this time. But Chase says that’s nonsense.

“You can get more out of average players in a system. But to win with good players, it’s hard to make sure there’s enough pucks for everyone, that everybody’s happy and getting enough ice time. I think Joel does a better job of that than anyone,” Chase said. “[Chris] Pronger, [Al] MacInnis, they’ll tell you he made them feel like they were part of the process, the solution rather than it was him coming up with an idea and we’ll do it his way. He listened to what they had to say. He always made people feel like they were part of the answer.”

General manager Stan Bowman agreed.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I think the sign of a great coach is to be able to get your most talented players to play their best, and that's not easy to do. Certainly that's the sign of a coach who's successful, is [that] they're able to get their top players to play well and to do it often,” Bowman said. “Joel's got a great feel for that, so we want to keep it going.”

Part of that is making the right off-ice adjustments. The Blackhawks, especially their core guys, have played a lot of hockey these last few years – they’ve played until at least June 1 three consecutive seasons. With that in mind, Quenneville keeps practices short – 45 minutes is considered one of his longer sessions – or he doesn’t practice the Blackhawks at all. The players happily accept that, knowing they better be ready come game day.

“As you're seeing right now, we've all learned to kind of deal with a shorter off-season and playing a lot of games in the months of December and January and how it can add up,” Toews said. “A lot of that comes with experience but also comes with what the coaching staff brings. Even the younger guys or newer guys that come into this locker room maybe haven't been used to having days off the way we have lately. But at least there's asense of our coaches; they treat us like professionals, they know we're gonna be ready when we come to the rink. If not, we always adjust what needs to be adjusted.”

As Marian Hossa said, “he does a smart thing here.”

[MORE: Five things from Blackhawks-Canadiens]

“We’ve played so much hockey the last six or seven years, it’s important to take a break,” Hossa said. “When you are winning and you get days off and the combination’s working, why not continue that?”

Quenneville continues to find success. He laughs when he’s asked if he’ll ever catch the all-time winningest coach, Scotty Bowman (1,244 victories). Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. Regardless, the 57-year-old Quenneville has done some special things already in his coaching career and there’s still plenty more he could do.

“Everybody talks about a coaching shelf life. If you find a way to make sure the people you’re working with still feel there’s positive energy going forward, you must be doing something right,” Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “You look at all the situations he’s been in, they’ve all been top notch. And he’s made it that way.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

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AP

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a Marcus Kruger redirection goal. The next one was the dagger, a beautiful give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

COLUMBUS — The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."