Blackhawks get day off after coming out flat vs. Stars
BY HERB GOULD For Sun-Times Media December 4, 2013 10:06PM
BLACKHAWKS AT WILD
The facts: 7 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: December 4, 2013 10:07PM
When a team comes out flat in its first home game after a long, successful road trip, many coaches would be grinding their teeth.
And few coaches would respond by giving his players their second day off in four days.
Joel Quenneville is different. It’s not only his style; it’s his knowledge that the NHL is a long season — an especially long season when half your core group might be traveling to Russia to play in the Olympics during the league’s two-week ‘‘break.’’
It’s also understandable when you look at the impressive talent and depth he’s managing.
After admitting the Hawks weren’t sharp in letting the Dallas Stars jump out to a 3-0 lead, Quenneville wasn’t reading too much into a 4-3 loss, particularly because the Hawks fought back to a 3-3 tie after two periods.
‘‘With Dallas, it’s just hard work and simplicity,’’ he said. ‘‘They cashed in on their chances, and we weren’t anywhere near their rate of cashing in.’’
And with the main goal six months away, the key is to keep moving forward — trusting and building. So the Hawks stayed off their skates Wednesday, same as they had on Sunday.
‘‘I like to be positive in our approach,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I’m more interested in how we play than our opponents. But we try to be upbeat and positive as best we can.’’
It helps, of course, to have the personnel the Hawks have. They’ve won two Stanley Cups in four years and still have an incredibly young nucleus and the depth to survive injuries and keep players competing for ice time.
Brandon Pirri, who has a big offensive upside, was sent to Rockford on Wednesday to work on his defense. Joakim Nordstrom, a defensive specialist, was called up.
In addition, when 40-year-old backup goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who was already looking shaky, was sidelined by injury, the Hawks shored up that slot nicely with Antti Raanta, 24, a Finnish free-agent signee who has won his first two NHL starts.
Depth for competition and injury situations ‘‘is always going to make us better,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘Knowing their roles and contributing any way they can is the biggest part of what’s made us successful. We’ll continue to focus on playing that whole team game and not rely on one or two guys too much.’’
It’s nice, though, to have standouts such as Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp leading the way.
‘‘The top guys are really the engines of the team,’’ said recently reacquired Kris Versteeg, who played on the 2010 Cup team. ‘‘They all seem to find different nights to contribute. Then you throw the depth guys in there, and they contribute. The biggest strength this team has had for a few years now is that depth. Playing almost into July is tough. But they’ve found a way to keep winning this season.’’
With that kind of motivated and talented roster, it’s easy to see why Quenneville has adopted an even keel.
‘‘I liked the consistency of our last road trip,’’ he said of the Hawks’ recent 6-1 march through the West. ‘‘Every game was played the right way. I don’t think we want to deviate. I love the consistency of the four lines and how we’re playing.’’
An off-night, or an off-period, here or there isn’t going to change that.