Blackhawks, Wild excited about outdoor game, but focused on points


Blackhawks, Wild excited about outdoor game, but focused on points

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s time for another outdoor game, another day filled with pomp and circumstance and yes, hockey.

But this game has a little bit more riding on it than some of the Blackhawks’ last few outdoor games. This one is also a divisional game, so as much as they and the Minnesota Wild will be taking in all the pageantry, they’ll also be focused on those critical two points.

The Blackhawks enter this Stadium Series game against the Wild in first place in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars remain one point back after a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. With the division race so tight near the top, the Blackhawks want to maintain as much of an edge as possible.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Buy a Stadium Series jersey]

“It’s an important game for both teams,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They’re coming off a great trip. We had an interesting week ourselves: big win in New York, trip to the White House and being on this stage is a privilege. But at the end of the day you have to be playing for keeps. You want to have fun in this setting, and you have more fun by playing the right way.”

The Blackhawks have played the right way more in recent games. Their power play has fueled them to two consecutive victories and they’re looking to maintain solid play down the stretch.

The Wild, however, are in a very different situation. Much like last season, the Wild struggled out of the gate. Unlike last season, it didn’t experience a great turnaround in mid-January. Minnesota is trying to get things going now — the Wild have won three in a row since replacing coach Mike Yeo with interim coach John Torchetti. But even if the Wild go on a great run it could be too little too late. They are currently in sixth place in the Central Division with 62 points.

This weekend is a big one for the Wild with this Stadium Series game, the first one Minnesota has hosted. But the Wild know they can’t get caught up in the entertainment part of the event.

[MORE: Blackhawks, John Torchetti (sort of) together again]

“We know they’re a good team and we’ve played them a lot,” Justin Fontaine said. “We’re familiar with each other, and we know what we need to bring to beat them.”

There will be plenty of fun surrounding this weekend but division points are also on the line. The Blackhawks have been here, done this before when it comes to the outdoor game. They’re going to be facing a hungry Wild team that’s trying, once again, for a late-season turnaround and trip to the playoffs. They know where their focus has to be.

“It looks like they’re motivated and they have some confidence back in their game,” Corey Crawford said. “They almost had the same sort of streak last year. I don’t know if it was as bad, but they were able to come back and play strong and get into the playoffs. It almost seems like the same scenario this year. But we have to be ready for them. They’re a well-rounded team that may have just lost their way a little bit there.”

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.”