"Great job!" Quenneville barked, clapping his hands together. " ... should be proud. Four times in six years, conference finals."
Oh, for a Q-Cam inside the Quenneville household late Friday when the
Whether the Blackhawks admit it, they enjoy every advantage against the Kings. Players and coaches correctly will point out the need to elevate their game another level but, as clearly the most complete team still alive, the Blackhawks have no excuse not to consistently play like it. That's not applying pressure as much as accepting reality.
Sure, the Kings have improved on offense since the Blackhawks beat them in five games in last season's conference finals and, with the league's leading playoff scorer in
"We're at the same level we're at last year," Quenneville said Saturday as Kings fans everywhere cringed.
In other words, the Blackhawks expect to keep getting better as the stakes increase — as they do. No matter the opponent, the deepest and most talented team remaining knows winning it all again will come down to injury and urgency. They can control the latter. That's not underestimating the Kings as much as underscoring how circumstances suddenly favor the Blackhawks becoming the first
The top six teams are all golfing. It's the first time since 1993 that no division champion advanced to the conference finals, according to ESPN.
Instead of flying to Southern California on Saturday morning, the rested Blackhawks prepared to host a Kings team that will play roughly 40 hours after its last game 2,000 miles away. People understandably worry about the Blackhawks' stamina because of a short off-season and the Olympics, but the Kings have played more postseason games than any NHL team since 2012 (52) and have six weary Olympians of their own. They will arrive torrid but tired, hurting without quality defensemen
"They have three or four of the best players at their position in the world," Kings Coach
Indeed, the resilient Kings became the first NHL team to win two straight series in the same postseason while losing three straight games in each series. Only two other NHL teams ever have won six or more elimination games in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: the 1975
Sutter wore a No. 27 Blackhawks sweater for 406 games from 1979-87, a grinding left winger whose workmanlike effort earned him respect around the city and league. He returned in 1992 to coach the Blackhawks to a 110-80-26 record until resigning in 1995 after a conference finals appearance to take care of his youngest son, Chris, who was born with Down syndrome. A King forever considered Blackhawks royalty, Sutter exudes an ornery persona his team embodies.
"They find ways to be successful," Quenneville said. "Mutually, there's a lot of respect. We know it's going to be a challenging series."
If it lasts long enough, the Kings like their chances no matter the venue:
Surely that would make Quenneville proud too.