Fewer practices rationed Hawks’ energy during sprint season
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org April 27, 2013 10:42PM
Updated: May 30, 2013 2:56PM
ST. LOUIS — And on the 99th day, the Blackhawks rested. Well, a lot of them, at least.
But while the mass sitting of nearly all the Hawks’ star players on Saturday night was unprecedented, it’s very much in keeping with coach Joel Quenneville’s stated goal — to keep his guys fit and fresh during the compressed season, which featured 48 games in 99 days.
That’s why the Hawks held so few practices, saving their energy for game days. And with the playoffs starting Tuesday or Wednesday, Quenneville believes all the days off have paid off.
“It’s been good,” Quenne-ville said. “Players like days off. When you come to the rink and it starts to be tedious, I don’t think you get the work out of it, I don’t find it productive. [It’s better to] stay away [and] get refreshed, so when you do hit the ice, every single time there’s some pace to your game.”
The Hawks’ ability to confidently roll four lines and three defensive pairings helped limit the minutes on the top guys, too. Duncan Keith averaged a team-high 24:06 of ice time, down nearly three minutes from his average over the last three seasons. Marian Hossa’s ice time dropped two minutes a game, Jonathan Toews more than a minute.
Patrick Kane was the exception for part of the season, when he saw double shifts frequently in March while the Hawks dealt with injuries. But his ice time has dropped to less than 20 minutes a game in recent weeks, and he said Friday that he felt “fresh.”
“The guys are eager, they’re excited about where we’re at,” Quenneville said. “And having that type of season [helped], where they had some rest, and we didn’t tax or overplay our top guys. We’re going to need them come playoff time.”
Quenneville wouldn’t say if Dave Bolland (groin) or Ray Emery (lower body) would be back in time for Game 1 of the playoffs, but he sounded less optimistic than he did earlier in the week. “We’ll see,” he said.