Quenneville on Game 4: ‘You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this group’

SHARE Quenneville on Game 4: ‘You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this group’
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After losing 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of the Western Conference final, the Blackhawks face a critical Game 4 on Saturday night at the United Center. (Mark Walsh/AP)

The Blackhawks face a critical Game 4 of the Western Conference final against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday at the United Center — trying to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole with two of the final three games of the series at the Honda Center.

But even with some noticeable issues in their 2-1 loss at home in Game 4 — a weak power-play, the Ducks’ shot-blocking, and readjusting the lineup — the Hawks are going to do what they always do in this situation: play hockey.

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this group,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Getting off to strong starts are always what we talk about.The leadership, preparation-wise, focus is always in the right place — led by our guys who have been around. That’s the message that’s most important.

“When you’re playing the game, that takes over. But in between games, the guys prepare the right way. Can’t ask for any more.”

Quenneville is not always eloquent or even forthcoming when it comes to most aspects of his team. But that pretty much sums up the state of the Hawks at this stage of the series. They’ll work their way out of it.

It remains to be seen if they’re in too tough against a Ducks team that is a notch above the Predators and Wild — the teams the Hawks defeated to get here. But given their history under Quenneville, you can’t discount their ability to rise to any challenge. It’s what they do.

Among the challenges:

— The lineup —Quenneville benched forwards Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen in favor of Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom. While it did give two players with fresh legs on the ice after the triple-overtime victory in Game 2, it didn’t provide the spark Quenneville was looking for.

Quenneville said Vermette and Teravainen “both could play” in Game 4 on Saturday night at the United Center. It’s more likely than possible at this point.

“When we look at making decisions, we [thought Game 3] was going to be our most challenging game, energy-wise after the tough game we had in Game 2,” Quenneville said. “We felt that trying to utilize our depth could help us, [provide] some energy and speed. As it turned out, we didn’t win the game. That’s where we’re at.”

— The power play, which scored twice in Game 2, was 0-for-5 and officially generated one shot on goal in Game 3. The solution?

“Entries,” said forward Brandon Saad. “With the game before, whether it was starting off a face-off or winning a big draw and starting in zone, [it] gives us a chance to set up and make plays at the net. [In Game 3] we were wasting too much time on our entries and turning pucks over, not getting that extra effort to get the puck in.That hurt the power play a lot.”

— Getting shots through. The Hawks had 28 shots on goal, but 27 shots blocked in Game 2. In Game 2, they had 62 shots on goal, but also 29 blocked.

“I think [we] played a little too much on the perimeter, trying to make too many plays,” Saad said. “When we delay the play, wait to find the perfect shot, they get a chance to get in the lane. The more we force it to the net, make quick plays, it’s going to be to our advantage.”

— Solving Frederik Andersen. The Ducks’ goaltender has been tougher to beat then either of the two Vezina Trophy finalists the Hawks made look average in the previous two rounds —the Predators’ Pekka Rinne and the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk. In three games, Andersen has a 1.27 goals-against average and .957 save percentage. Rinne and Dubnyk had a combined 2.73 GAA and .909 save percentage against the Hawks.

“He’s a great goaltender,” said Saad, who has 11 shots on goal without scoring in the series. “Not only do we have to get in front of him and bang in rebounds, [but] they’re blocking shots, playing a good defensive game in front of him. On top of a great goaltender, that’s a tough team to score on.”

It has not reached the point where Andersen is in their heads —an issue the Hawks almost never have to deal with. But it’s getting closer to that point.

“You see where we have stints of it,” Saad said, referring to the Hawks’ success vs. Andersen. “I think in Game 2 with Shawsy [Andrew Shaw] in front of the net, [Marcus] Kruger in front of the net — we have to get more competitive in front of the net to bang in rebounds. He’s a tough goaltender to beat on the first shot, especially when he sees the puck.”

Though the degree of difficulty has risen in this series, the Hawks’ confidence hasn’t been shaken. And they do some of their best work when they’re trailing in a series.

“We want to play every game like it’s a must-win,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said, “but it’s easy to find that motivation when you’re down in a series — especially since this is a big game at home.

“We know what’s at stake. We’ll just go out there and play as hard as we can and we’re confident we’ll start getting the bounces if we keep doing the right things in their zone and around their net.”

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