They keep tinkering, each of them, looking for any advantage they can find.
Claude Julien made a line change in Game 2 that led to a victory for the Boston Bruins. A couple of subtle adjustments by Joel Quenneville helped the Chicago Blackhawks get a big win in Game 4.
Back and forth it goes. While the Bruins and Blackhawks compete on the ice, two former NHL defensemen are trying to become the 14th coach with at least two Stanley Cup titles.
“They’ve got a role to play, just like we do as players,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said Friday. “Ultimately it’s going to be decided on the ice, but our coaching staff, the Bruins as well, they have a lot to say with what goes on.”
They’ve already had an impact. And the next move, along with the response from the other bench, could be a deciding factor in who wins this tight series between two of the NHL’s most beloved franchises.
The Blackhawks’ 6-5 overtime victory in Boston on Wednesday made it a split of the first four games. The series resumes tonight in Chicago, with the rest of league’s coaching fraternity enjoying the chess match between two of its most accomplished members.
“What has been fun to watch is, neither guy is hoping for chemistry to develop,” St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They’re not sitting on a combination. They’re moving guys around to try to find something and their proactive approaches have been one of the great things about the series.”
Quenneville’s team appeared to be in trouble heading into Game 4. The Bruins controlled the last part of a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 2, stealing home-ice advantage from Chicago, and shut down the Blackhawks in a 2-0 victory Monday night that put Boston up 2-1 in the finals.
Looking for an offensive spark, Quenneville put captain Jonathan Toews back on the same line with Patrick Kane ahead of Game 4. Toews responded with his second goal of the playoffs, and Kane had a goal and an assist. The Blackhawks’ defensemen also were more active in the offensive zone, with Brent Seabrook scoring the winning goal.
Shortly after the series-tying victory, Quenneville still managed to poke fun at himself when asked about putting Toews and Kane together again.
“Maybe it looks like I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said with a chuckle.
The moment of levity in the middle of a taut series was a prime example of why Quenneville has been so successful in his third stint as a head coach in the NHL.
“I think he’s always been the same guy,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I think you always know what you’re going to get with him and I think that’s probably the biggest thing for us, why we have success. He’s level-headed, brings that even-keel attitude to the team.”
The Bruins were struggling on the second night of the series when Julien put Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Tyler Seguin together on the same line, and they were responsible for both of Boston’s goals in a victory that gave the Bruins a split of the first two games in Chicago.
“I think Claude has always been leading the same way and kind of coaching the same way,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “I think a little adjustment during the series is a little different because you’re playing the same team over and over again. So it’s about little tweaks here and there and I think the whole coaching staff is good at that.”
Boston has made it to the playoffs in each of Julien’s six seasons in charge, and two more victories would make it two Stanley Cup titles in three seasons. It also won it all in 2011, coming back to beat Vancouver in seven games after losing the first two of the series.
The same relentless approach that helped the Bruins overcome the Canucks two years ago popped up again when they staged an improbable rally in the third period of a 5-4 victory over Toronto in Game 7 of the first round of this year’s postseason.
It’s no coincidence that the occasionally feisty Julien was behind the bench for each victory.
“I’ve always said I’ve got to be comfortable; in order to be comfortable, I’ve got to be myself,” the 53-year-old Julien said. “As a player, I felt things. As a coach, I kind of remember those things. At the same time, when you are the coach, you are the guy that gives the direction so it’s a fine line.”
Quenneville, who turns 55 in September, coached the Blackhawks to the best record in the NHL in his fifth season in Chicago. Under his leadership, the Blackhawks ended a 49-year drought when they won the Cup in 2010.
Like Julien, Quenneville’s coaching style also is influenced by his playing career.
“As a player, it’s way more fun being a player than a coach,” he said. “But at the same time, really enjoyed coaching in the different places I’ve been as a coach. I just think I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people, some great organizations. I’ve learned from some great people along the way.”
They keep tinkering, each of them, looking for any advantage they can find.
Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup
Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Game 3 pivotal for both teams
Not so long ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the worst team in the NHL.
Now they’re heading home for tonight’s Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, hoping to make even more history.
Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT
Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.
Brewers rally to clip Pirates
Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.
Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon
The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897. Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.
Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid
Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.
Drama lacking sans Tiger
If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
The course was there in all its splendor.
Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets
Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pirates power past Brewers
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.
Jackets preparing for Game 2
The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.
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