CHICAGO - Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been on the mountain plenty of times before, but he's never led a group this close to the top.
Sure, he was an assistant with Colorado when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996, but this is different. He calls the shots now. He decides to break up the top line. His team is one win away from kissing the Stanley Cup.
With the first true off day since the finals began on May 29, Quenneville sat yesterday morning in an empty United Center that some 12 hours earlier was more rock concert than hockey game. Dustin Byfuglien wasn't flattening anybody and Michael Jordan wasn't waving a rally towel.
Quenneville told his players to get lost. Go be with your families. Get away from the rink. Preparation for tomorrow's Game 6 will commence today. Though after thumping the Flyers so thoroughly, the Blackhawks won't be making many changes.
"Status quo would probably be the best way to go into the next game," Quenneville said.
Quenneville, 51, has coached a thousand regular-season games and another 125 in the playoffs (66-59). He got to the conference finals twice.
Last year, the Blackhawks were thumped by Detroit in five. In 2001, with Chris Pronger and Hall of Famer Al MacInnis as his top defensemen, Quenneville's Blues lost to the Avalanche in five. Quenneville already is the winningest coach in major sports with a surname beginning with Q, ahead of NHL lifer and former Flyers coach Pat Quinn and former manager Frank Quilici, who led the Twins in the early 1970s.
That arcane nugget aside, Quenneville was mostly restrained when asked about yesterday's day off and the opportunity to clinch the Stanley Cup tomorrow. He did manage to slip in some enthusiasm, though.
"I think both teams can use it to their advantage to get rest and get excited about the next game," he said. "I think some guys would rather play [yesterday]."
Another stat that is much more relevant is the success the Flyers have had at the Wachovia Center. Philadelphia is 9-1 in the postseason at home and has won seven in a row there. The last two wins, of course, came against the Blackhawks in Games 3 and 4 of this series when the Flyers carried most of the play.
It has been a series of punches and counterpunches. The bell for the 11th round is about to ring and the Flyers have some blood flowing from their collective noses. Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette says he likes the way his team has responded to haymakers before this point and he has the history to prove it. Quenneville has something a bit more important: the series lead.
At least for now.
"I think the extra rest will get us focused knowing it's a huge game," he said, "biggest game of our lives. Channel it properly, and control what we can control and that's the next shift."
Down, but not out
The Flyers still have a chance to win this series. A 30 percent chance, to be precise.
Before 2010, the Stanley Cup finals has been tied 2-2 20 times. The team that lost Game 5 managed to rally six times - or 30 percent of the time.
Considering the Flyers overcame odds of 98.8 percent to erase Boston's 3-0 lead in the second round, 30 percent is a relative layup and the Blackhawks know this.
Jonathan Toews pointed out after Sunday's game that the home team is undefeated in this series.
"It's been an advantage to play in your own building," the Hawks captain said. "Hopefully, we can buck that trend and really play our best game this series in the next one."
Third time the charm?
Marian Hossa was on the losing end of one of those teams that squandered a 3-2 lead in the Cup finals. In fact, if Chicago blows this, he'll be to hockey what the Bums were to legions of Brooklyn baseball fans in the 1940s and early '50s. Good enough to get there, just not quite capable of winning it.
"We know it's going to be the toughest game to close [out the series]," said Hossa, arguably Chicago's most consistent player against the Flyers. "Having been in that situation, especially last year, the momentum in the first shift next game, first goal is going to be so important. [It's] going to be important for us to start really well."
Hossa is the first player to get to the Stanley Cup finals 3 consecutive years with three different teams. He is trying to avoid the ignominy of losing it all 3 years in a row. Last year, he was with the Red Wings, who led Pittsburgh, 3-2, before losing twice, including Game 7 at home. In 2008, Hossa was part of the Penguins team that lost to Detroit in six games. *