Morning Skate: Thorns in Quenneville’s side

By DAVE DYE
FOXSportsDetroit.com

Mike Babcock and the Detroit Red Wings can knock out Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville one more time with a victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Without question, Babcock and the Wings are Quenneville’s postseason nemesis.

Consider:

• Babcock, in his eighth season as the Red Wings’ coach, is 11-2 in playoff games against Quenneville.

• Babcock’s team is on the verge of eliminating a Quenneville team for the third time in three playoff series.

• The last four times the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup — 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008 — they eliminated a Quenneville-coached team en route to the Finals.

• Quenneville is one loss from becoming the first NHL coach in at least 75 years to go 0-6 in playoff series against another team, according to STATS LLC.

If it weren’t for the Red Wings, Quenneville’s life would be so much better.

He was coaching St. Louis in 1997 (first round), 1998 (second round) and 2002 (second round) when the Blues were eliminated by the Red Wings.

He also was coaching Colorado in 2008 (second round) and Chicago in 2009 (conference final) when they were knocked out by Detroit.

And he’s now coaching the top-seeded, heavily-favored Blackhawks, who trail three games to one in the best-of-seven series.

In fairness to Quenneville, he had to try to compete against a dynasty-type franchise during much of this time.

Babcock, meanwhile, is enjoying arguably his best coaching job ever in Detroit, assuming the Wings can finish taking out Chicago the way they did No. 2 seed Anaheim in the opening round.

A few weeks ago, there were concerns the Red Wings wouldn’t even make the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

Now, they’ve suddenly emerged as a Stanley Cup contender entering Saturday’s game at the United Center in Chicago (8 p.m., NBC).

Since 2003, his first year in the NHL, Babcock has 31 more playoff victories than any other coach during that time (78 before Saturday, compared to 47 for Boston’s Claude Julien and 46 for Quenneville).

With that 78-50 playoff record over 10 years (the first two with Anaheim), Babcock is now tied for the eighth-most career playoff wins in NHL history with Pat Burns. Quenneville has 77.

This unexpected playoff run by Detroit has come in the wake of losing captain Nicklas Lidstrom, defenseman Brad Stuart and the net-front presence of Tomas Holmstrom, not to mention numerous injuries throughout the season and the addition of several rookies into prominent roles.

“He finds a way, regardless of who’s in the lineup,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of Babcock’s success. “Nick’s gone. Stu’s gone. Homer’s gone. Over the last few years, we had some big pieces leaving us like Drapes (Kris Draper) and Malts (Kirk Maltby), Ozzie (Chris Osgood) … the list goes on.

“He’s found a way to get everyone on the same page to get the job done. That’s what it’s about. I don’t think there’s a coach out there that prepares better than he does.”
 
WINNING THE DRAWS: For a couple of puck-possession teams like Detroit and Chicago, winning face-offs to gain control of the puck can be crucial over the long haul.

Both teams won 50.8 percent of their face-offs during the regular season, but the Red Wings have had the advantage in each of the first four games of this series.

Detroit’s centers were 32-29 in Game 1, 31-25 in Game 2, 37-29 in Game 3 and 31-29 in Game 4.

For the series, the Wings have won 131 of the 243 face-offs — or 53.9 percent.

No one has been better than Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, who is at 58.7 percent after winning 54-of-92.

It’s not just the centers, though. Detroit’s wingers have been doing a better job than Chicago’s wingers in fighting for position to help gain possession off the drop of the puck.
 
POWER-PLAY SHORTAGES: Although Detroit’s winning goal in Game 4 came with one second remaining in a Chicago penalty, neither team has done much of anything with the man-advantage during the first four games.

Chicago scored on its first opportunity in Game 1 but has been since shutout in its last 11 power-play chances.

Detroit failed on its first 13 chances in the series and is 1-for-15 overall.

Between them, they’re 2-for-27 (7.4 percent) with the extra man.