Mon May 25 11:11am EDT
Talk about your ideal moments of symbolism for the current course of the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals: Fresh-faced newbie Patrick Kane(notes) of the Hawks getting a metaphoric pacifier ripped out of his mouth by grizzled, burly Johan Franzen(notes) of the Wings:
The Mule schooling The Foal, just as the Red Wings have outclassed their feisty divisional rivals to the tune of a 3-1 series lead.
Don't let the pacifier motif fool you. This isn't to say that Kane is a whiner or a crier; he's just a young player who "tends to chew on his mouthguard more than he wears it."
No ... it's his coach who's the crier. And the whiner. And the hyperbolic sore loser that began his press conference with the kind of petulance and pettiness from a bench boss that's usually reserved for a Bobby Knight chair toss.
This is Coach Joel Quenneville's press conference after Game 4, a 6-1 trouncing by the Detroit Red Wings that saw Chicago play with the stoic maturity of a C-grade pee-wee team before descending into outright lawlessness by the third period. His answers to the first question, and the follow-up, would enter into the annuls of coaches' press conference clip infamy had he raised his voice, slammed his fist or exclaimed "THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!"
Alas, all we're left with is a professional coach claiming that the officials had "ruined the game" by calling a what he felt was a phantom roughing penalty:
For the video-impaired, here's Quenneville:
"I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports today at the end of the [first] period there, nothing play. They score, it's 3-0, and they ruin a good hockey game. They absolutely destroyed what was going on, on the ice. Whatever happened after that ... you know, our guys were battling and competing and doing what we had to do to get ourselves back into it. You know, we'll find a way to fight through it. But it was that call ... never seen anything like it.
"I couldn't find the penalties. I think you could argue along the way. But they ruined the whole game. That's basically the gist of what I'm trying to say."
Goodness. It's almost like the Red Wings didn't outshoot Chicago 14-9 in the first period or something ...
As Ross McKeon pointed out, Quenneville had a much more emotional response at the outset of the second period. And that combined with the above clip is just inexcusable for a coach that, as Mike Imrem of the Daily Herald writes, should be blaming the room instead of blaming the zebras for his team's Game 4 flop:
But what's really strange about Quenneville's ramblings was that he could have come up with 20 other things to complain about, all of them in Hawks sweaters.
Like, how about his players not exactly maintaining their composure? How about the goaltending being inadequate without injured starter Nikolai Khabibulin(notes)? How about the Hawks overall playing poorly enough to get smoked by 5 goals? All this despite the Wings playing without captain Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), the NHL's best defenseman.
We're not surprised that Quenneville didn't shoot on "his players not exactly maintaining their composure," because they're being led by a man who just pinned a 6-1 loss, the subprime mortgage crisis, New Snapple and the Kennedy Assassination on a roughing call at the end of the first period.
Which is to say that Quenneville hasn't exactly had his best series.
We've backed him all season, to the point where we felt his taking over for Coach Savard and whipping this team into shape merited Jack Adams consideration.
But in the conference finals, he's been exposed just as his team has been. The Blackhawks looked ready to be champions through two rounds of "wise beyond their years" poise, before getting spanked by Detroit. Quenneville was not just coaching well in the first two rounds, and especially on the win over the Vancouver Canucks, but he was a steadying presence behind the bench.
Well, that's all certainly changed in a hurry. And the bottom line was uttered by Coach Q later in his press conference: "We played two pretty good games in Detroit to come out with nothing."
You live, you learn (and you learn to live with the fact that the Cristobal Huet(notes) signing is problematic); and the Blackhawks have learned, to a man and pacifiers or not, that you have to stumble and bang your head on the sharp corners of your parents' furniture before you learn to walk.