Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference (21) defends against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy (8) during the third period in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, Monday, June 17, 2013. The Bruins won 2-0. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Throughout the 2013 regular season and playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks head coach has made a habit of having a player in his doghouse at all times.
Whether it was Jamal Mayers for some unknown reason, Daniel Carcillo for his repeated bone-headed penalties or Viktor Stalberg for (allegedly) questioning his role on the team’s power play, Quenneville always seems to have it in for a particular player on the roster, and his punishments range in severity from removal from the lineup to just stapling a guy to the bench.
In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday, Quenneville targeted young defenseman Nick Leddy. In the game, Leddy only had four shifts, playing a grand total of 2:37. Considering the fact the game lasted for nearly 35 times that amount (nearly 70 minutes), it’s not a stretch to imagine that Leddy may have done something to upset Quenneville.
Even if that wasn’t the case, the question has to be asked as to whether or not Quenneville feels he can trust Leddy in close games. Obviously, Leddy is still fairly green when judged by the veteran stature of the other Hawks’ defensemen, but it isn’t like he’s a total slouch on defense. His speed causes problems for the opposing forwards if they aren’t quick with the puck, and he’s always willing to push the puck into the offensive zone when the Hawks are having trouble with their zone entries.
Those assets are important to a hockey team, especially one that is trying to fight through a physical opponent that can at least come close to matching them in speed, but apparently Quenneville either didn’t feel confident enough in Leddy’s abilities to unleash him on the Bruins Wednesday, or he just didn’t trust him to play responsible defense.
It’s not like the Blackhawks were lighting the world on fire only skating five defensemen anyway. Yes, Brent Seabrook and Michal Rozsival both pitched in on the offensive side of things, and yes Duncan Keith was on the ice for four Hawks goals for and no goals against, but both Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson had dreadful games for Chicago, and yet they both played over 25 minutes in the contest.
In any case, the ultimate question that comes up is whether or not Leddy should even be in the lineup on Saturday night at the United Center. Obviously, the talent gap between Leddy and Sheldon Brookbank isn’t exactly a chasm, since each brings different facets of the game into the lineup, but if Quenneville can’t trust Leddy for more than four shifts, what’s the point of having him on the bench? With a shorter turnaround between Games 5 and 6 (only one off day, as opposed to the two between Games 4 and 5), Quenneville can’t rely on just skating five defensemen and seeing what comes of it.
Ultimately, Leddy should be in the lineup, and Quenneville should use him more (especially on the power play, where Keith has looked shaky throughout the Final), but if he is that dead-set against it and wants to bury Leddy in the doghouse, then Brookbank needs to be on the ice Saturday.