DETROIT – Joel Quenneville has accomplished a lot in the NHL, hoisting the Stanley Cup once and with as many postseason victories as any active coach.
The Chicago Blackhawks coach, though, has never gotten past the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs.
Quenneville is 0-5 as a head coach against the Red Wings in post-season series, getting eliminated by them in 2009 to end his first season in Chicago, once with Colorado, and three times while leading St. Louis.
“When you look back over the history, obviously they’ve had a good team for a lot of years and had their Cup years,” Quenneville explained Wednesday. “I think everybody in the Western Conference was trying to get them.”
This year, Quenneville is coaching the team considered the one to beat. Chicago set a league record by earning at least a point in the first 24 games and finished the lockout-shortened season with at least five more points than every other team.
But coach Mike Babcock and the rapidly peaking Red Wings have won two straight games by a combined score of 7-2 to take a 2-1 lead in the second-round series.
If Quenneville’s decisions, such as sticking with goaltender Corey Crawford, help the Blackhawks even the series Thursday night in Game 4 on the road, the Coach of the Year finalist might finally beat the Red Wings in the playoffs.
If the buttons Babcock pushes lead to the Red Wings taking a 3-1 advantage, Quenneville will be on the brink of breaking a dubious mark.
Quenneville is one of three coaches who are 0-5 in post-season series against a franchise since 1937, according to STATS, joining Jacques Martin and Billy Reay, who had the same record against Toronto and Montreal, respectively.
Crawford is confident he can help Chicago rally in the series by taking advantage of the belief Quenneville has in him instead of putting backup Ray Emery in net.
“That’s nice for him to back me up, but, I’ve got to come in and play well and give a little bit more,” Crawford said.
Babcock relentlessly pushes his players to give everything they have and demands they do it each day.
If veterans or inexperienced players don’t meet his high expectations, they’ll hear about it and might have a message sent by being a healthy scratch in any given game.
“He makes his team accountable,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
With an iron fist?
“Yeah,” Holland said. “He’s the boss.”
Holland is Babcock’s boss more than a decade after telling him that he wanted to lead the storied franchise on the ice while he was coaching a minor league team shared by Detroit and Anaheim.
During the second intermission of a playoff game in 2002, Holland recalled Babcock telling him he wanted to be the next coach of the Red Wings.
“I don’t hire interns,” Holland said he told Babcock. “The next year, he knocked us out of the playoffs.”
The Babcock-led Ducks eliminated Detroit in 2003 and went on to lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to New Jersey. After missing the playoffs the following year, Anaheim let Babcock go and Holland hired him.
Babcock helped Detroit hoist the Cup in 2008 and led Canada to gold at the Vancouver Games in 2010, becoming the first coach to pull off both of those feats along with winning a world championship.
He is confident, not cocky, about his chances to have more success this post-season because the seventh-seeded Red Wings have improved from within. So much so, in fact, that they can roll four lines of forwards and three pairs of defenceman throughout a game.
“Teams that are successful at playoff time have depth,” Babcock said. “That gives a coach a lot of options to move things around to adjust to change.”
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