These coaches will play active roles

May 31, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Before any player dances around the arena with the Stanley Cup hoisted on his shoulders, two old guys are likely to steal some of the spotlight.

They won't skate a shift. They won't take a hit. They won't score a goal. But Mike Keenan, coach of the Rangers, and Pat Quinn, coach of the Canucks, are almost certain to emerge as the guiding forces behind this best-of-seven series, which will open tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Unlike some coaches who simply send out their players and then sit back and watch, Keenan and Quinn take active roles in games.

Keenan did a masterly job of guiding the Rangers to their first appearance in the finals since 1979. He massaged goalie Mike Richter's confidence when it was called for. He gave Mark Messier a free hand to be the club's leader.

He instilled trust among the players and kept them composed even as the New Jersey Devils pushed them to double overtime Friday in a dramatic Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Likewise, Quinn played a huge role in leading the Canucks to their first appearance in the finals since 1982. He directed them to playoff conquests of Calgary, Dallas and Toronto.

He got his defense to neutralize the scoring depth of all three opponents. He found ways to use the speed and offense of his own club, and he got the job done in just five games in two of the series.

Keenan's performance was especially noteworthy because he had to overcome his own wide-eyed, sometimes maniacal enthusiasm.

For example, after the Devils stunned the sellout crowd at the Garden by scoring with just 7.7 seconds left in regulation time in Game 7, Keenan took his players into the dressing room before the first overtime and simply sat there.

He knew his players needed time to ponder, not to listen to a harangue by their coach.

"I didn't have to say much because there's enough experience in there," said Keenan, who also took the 1992 Chicago Blackhawks and the 1985 and 1987 Philadelphia Flyers to the finals. "We were very positive. We said that as bad as we feel about this, we're going to feel that much better when we win it."

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