Blackhawks will 'move on and learn' from Duncan Keith suspension


Blackhawks will 'move on and learn' from Duncan Keith suspension

By Jeff Hamilton

WINNIPEG - The Blackhawks may be without Duncan Keith for the rest of the regular season and Game 1 of their first round playoff series, but they know it could have been worse.

Keith, who was handed down a six-game suspension by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety Friday evening for a high-stick on Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle in the first period of Tuesday’s loss to the Wild, will certainly be missed. After all, the Hawks will be missing their best player down the stretch, the guy they lean on to log the most minutes, many of which come during the most important situations in a game.

[MORE: Duncan Keith suspended six games, will miss first postseason game]

But they also know he’ll return; a return that will come in time for what they hope will be another deep postseason run in defending last year’s title. And it’s because of that they can take the news with a deep breath, and a sigh or relief.

“I’m not the one who picks the amount of games so the less, the better,” said Scott Darling, who made 28 saves in a 5-4 overtime win over the Jets Friday night to close out a four-game road trip with a record of 3-1.

“We’re going to miss him no matter what but it could have been more so we’re happy it’s only one (playoff) game.”

Brent Seabrook, the hero in Friday’s game with the game-winning goal one minute four seconds into overtime, also made no bones about the length of Keith’s suspension. But he also knows what it means to lose a leader both on and off ice. And the way the team has been playing — the Hawks are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games — he's aware of the up-hill battle ahead of him and his teammates.

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“We’re obviously glad it’s not more (games),” he said. “He’s such a valuable part of this team and Game 1 of the playoffs, it’s going to be a war as it always is. It’s a team of 20 players, being out there we’re all going to have to band together and pick up the slack for Dunc and we’re sure he’ll be coming for Game 2.”

“As a group of six back there (on defense) we’re going to have to be at our best. We got to take some of the load on our shoulders and get the job done.”

As for coach Joel Quenneville, who with the rest of the Blackhawks’ coaching staff were the only ones on the bench that knew about the suspension before puck drop, he refused to see the one playoff game as a bonus for his team, even though he said he respected the league’s decision.

“One playoff game is very big when you know his importance to our team and the minutes he absorbs,” he said. “We’ll take it, move on and learn from it as well.”

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.”