Quinn a voice of experience for the underdog
CHICAGO -- If history says that Cinderella never wins the Stanley Cup, perhaps the trick is in the prohibitive underdog convincing itself that it requires no glass slippers or pumpkins-turned-coaches.
Peter Laviolette appears to be doing a pretty good job of making his Philadelphia Flyers -- an 88-point team this season that finished 18th in the NHL's overall standings -- feel and behave as if their underdog status entering the 2010 Stanley Cup Final was a media-wide blunder. But if he needed any advice in hammering home the point going into Sunday's Game 5 at the United Center, there was former Flyers defenseman and coach Pat Quinn in the stands watching the Philly and Chicago skates.
Quinn, of course, coached a middling Vancouver team all the way to the 1994 Final against a first-overall New York Rangers club that was believed to be heading for a coronation, not a competition. But Quinn's charges battled back from a 3-1 series deficit and were within a goal of tying Game 7 in the electric atmosphere of Madison Square Garden right until the final buzzer.
Now the coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Quinn was in Chicago to chaperone his Blackhawks-loving granddaughter to Game 5 of this locked-up Final. Apparently, Quinn was so good at the psychological aspect of his job 16 years ago that even he recalls the '94 Final as less of an on-paper mismatch than it really was.
Asked by NHL.com if those Canucks and these Flyers were similar, Quinn replied: "Yes and no. The Flyers have been last-gasp guys all the way. We, at least, were a first-place club, so we were not a total surprise. The Rangers were a veteran team and everybody loved them. Nobody was expecting us to win, but we believed."
Fact is, the Canucks went 41-40-3 during the 1993-94 season. Like the Flyers, who went 4-7-1 over their final 12 games this season, the '93-94 Canucks wobbled into the playoffs, going 3-5-0 in their last eight.
And while they finished second in the Pacific Division, those Canucks were the seventh seed in the Western Conference entering the playoffs. What's more, like the Flyers, the Canucks had to mount a major comeback to advance in the playoffs -- rallying from 3-1 down against Calgary in the first round.
So Vancouver arrived at the '94 Final as a team on a run that most thought was about to run out. The 27-point discrepancy between them and the Rangers was the greatest since 1982, when the Islanders were 41 points better than the Canucks. The 25-point gap between the Blackhawks and Flyers this season was the greatest for Cup finalists since '94.
Quinn sees this series as a toss-up at this point.
"They're two young teams that are deep," he said. "Philly is finally playing like they should have played earlier in the season. Chicago is a team with flash, but now young kids who are suddenly in a tough spot.
"Wednesday night could have been lights out for the Flyers very easily. But now the Blackhawks have a bit of an albatross around their necks."
Asked to take over Joel Quenneville's whistle and whiteboard for a moment, Quinn said he'd try to project calm.
"A coach's job is be a confident, calming influence that lays out the game plan and ask the players to execute it," Quinn said.
So is it possible that with their line changes and introspection coming out of Game 4, the ‘Hawks are over-thinking this thing?
"Chicago fans are telling me the team hasn't shown them yet in this series how they played most of the season," Quinn said. "The Blackhawks might be a little ponderous through the first four games. The Flyers look quick, maybe quicker than they are, and Chicago doesn't look so quick.
"Part of that is the mental side of this business. The Blackhawks' [offensive] system looks a little off, the passes are little late and they are not hitting the holes quick enough."