A couple of months ago, I wrote a post here mentioning all the things I like about Joel Quenneville. It felt necessary, because I spend a good chunk of my time complaining and pointing out perceived flaws, such as lineup management and sometimes getting caught cold by the opposing coach. Or at least trying to illustrate all the ways the roster he’s been given covers up some mistakes.
Watching the Penguins and Bruins eat it the past two nights, I’m reminded of one of the bigger points of that post: The Hawks’ attitude.
These things are impossible to measure or quantify, but I can state pretty confidently that Boston’s meltdown and “message sending” (defined in other circles as “dick measuring”) didn’t help their cause in Game 7. It looked a lot like a team that had run out of answers against a team it really should have been beating. It looked like a team that was terrified it was going out, which is what they looked like again when they played a very timid Game 7.
“We’re not sure we can beat you at hockey, so we’re going to try and intimidate you in the hopes you’ll be scared and let us win.”
Well, it certainly looked like it had the opposite effect on the Habs. Because they played a very assured and smooth Game 7, and they’re not reaching for the golf clubs today the way the Bruins are. And the Bruins were the league’s best team in the regular season, and it wasn’t all that close. It felt like all that bullshit at the end of Game 6 steeled the Canadiens’ reserve.
Why were the Bruins so panicked? So overcharged? They still had a Game 7 at home to play with, and yet from Game 6 it looked like they wanted no part of it.
Even when the Hawks and Q were getting clowned by Mike Babcock last year, you never saw this. Their attitude never wavered. They never even seemed worried, which I know wasn’t the case for a lot of us out here in the fields.
And other than Game 4 in ’09–when the Hawks were out of answers against a team they were simply outclassed by–the Hawks have never melted down this way. Even when they were getting clubbed by Vancouver in ’11 and sent out John Scott on the power play, they put their heads back down and almost saved it.
Personnel is a part of it of course. The Hawks don’t have a Lucic, though Bickell thought he was for the first two games of the St. Louis series. They don’t really have a Brad Marchand, though occasionally Andrew Shaw will morph into that. But it encompassed more than the Red-Ass faction of the Bruins. Torey Krug and Jarome Iginla were involved. It seemed to be a team-wide thing.
We’ve seen this with the Penguins too, who lost their minds against Philadelphia two years ago in a fashion that still defies explanation. They did it again against Boston last year. And the Rangers this year, whereas soon as they lost Game 5 at home you knew where it was going.
Has Toews ever ended up barking at opponents and taking cheap shots the way Crosby and Malkin have? Maybe, but I don’t remember them.
Bylsma had bigger obstacles too, in that the roster was more flawed than the other two teams. He wasn’t really given a bottom six. Q hasn’t been given a perfect bottom six either, and has harmed that himself at times, but he’s made it work better. Bylsma also didn’t get much production from his top end, which Q most certainly still is.
With what’s left now, Q might be the best coach left standing. I wouldn’t trust Bruce Boudreau ever, Darryl Sutter is allergic to offense, Michel Therrien actually dressed Doug Murray and I don’t have to point anything else out, and we’ve seen the Alain Vigneault movie in these parts.
All these teams left have flaws and all can be exposed. But I can at least be assured that the Hawks won’t have bouts of insanity and stupidity derail their cause.