Keenan likes Blackhawks' chances

Updated: May 26, 2010, 12:38 PM ET
ESPNChicago.com

Mike Keenan believes the Chicago Blackhawks have a better shot at winning the Stanley Cup than they did the last time they were in the finals.

It was 1992, and Keenan was the Blackhawks' coach as they faced Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who swept their way to the Cup.

"They have a very talented group," Keenan said Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I don't know if they have an opponent ahead of them that was quite like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Mario Lemieux, and [Jaromir] Jagr, [Ron] Francis and [Larry] Murphy.

"Their shot at the Cup is probably even better than what ours was in '92."

Keenan was interviewed before the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens Monday night in the Eastern Conference finals.

"We had a great team there and a great run," Keenan said. "It took us a little bit of time, as it did with this group, to get to the finals. We went to the final four two previous times, defeated by the Stanley Cup champions Edmonton and Calgary.

"We swept Edmonton to get to the finals, just as Chicago swept San Jose. It brings back good memories."

Keenan, who guided the Flyers to two finals appearances, would lead the New York Rangers to the '94 Stanley Cup title, and he eventually landed in Calgary. The Hawks eliminated the Flames in the conference quarterfinals last year, and Keenan was soon released.

"They learned a lot about their self confidence as a group as that series [against the Flames] went on," Keenan said. "It was a very important step for them.

"They learned from the defeat to the Red Wings a year ago [in the conference finals]. That's part of the process of learning how to win and how to deal with the pressures and expectations of the playoffs."

Keenan isn't surprised the Hawks are back in the finals after some lean years.

"I'm glad [the turnaround has] arrived," he said. "When you have lean years, and if you're drafting properly, eventually it will come around for you.

"I think Dale Tallon put a lot of pieces of the puzzle in place, and now Stan Bowman has picked up from there."

One person who has achieved a surprising level of success is goaltender Antti Niemi.

"I know that was the question mark," Keenan said. "He's played exceptionally well and given them the backing they needed as a group to build the confidence to be able to sweep a team like San Jose. You have to have a good hockey club, but you have to have excellent goaltending.

"I think they're probably pleasantly surprised. If they thought he was going to play that well and commented on it, I didn't hear about it. But trying to make that choice during the course of the year and then finally going with him and making him the No. 1 goaltender, he's served the club well."

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