May 29, 2013
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
#7 Detroit Red Wings at #1 Chicago Blackhawks
Coming in to the Western Conference Semi-Final series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, hockey fans around the league knew a classic series was in store. However, no one could have expected this.
The Red Wings were supposed to put up a fight. They did much more than that. After an impressive Blackhawks victory in Game One, the Red Wings took control, winning the next three games, shutting down the Blackhawks’ offense, and getting inside the heads of their key players. The Wings had the opportunity to close out the series in Game Five in Chicago, but the Blackhawks found their missing powerplay and staved off elimination. Game Six saw the series shift back to MoTown, and the Wings once again tried to eliminate the ‘Hawks, this time on home ice. A strong third period was too much for Detroit to handle, and Chicago evened the series.
It set the stage for Game Seven. The last rivalry game played between these teams would see one of them face the L.A. Kings in the Western Conference Final, and the other go home empty handed.
The United Center was simply electric. Jim Corneilson got it going, and the Madhouse saw one of it’s rowdiest anthems ever. The Blackhawks used that momentum early, and jumped all over the Wings. Jimmy Howard stood strong, and the Wings pushed back. Neither Howard nor Corey Crawford would slip, and the first period came to a close scoreless. Shots at the end of the frame were 13-11 Chicago.
The Blackhawks came out in full force for the second period. Just over a minute in, Niklas Hjalmarsson made a long stretch pass to Michal Handzus, who in turn dished it to Marian Hossa. Hossa was in alone, and fed it across to Patrick Sharp for the goal.
It was a defensive battle after the Blackhawks’ broke the tie, and both teams played very conservative. Detroit had a couple of missed chances with bouncing pucks, and the Blackhawks took the lead into the dressing room with 20 minutes to go.
Just as the Blackhawks did in the second, Detroit pounced early in the third. After a faceoff in the Blackhawks’ zone, the play shifted to the neutral zone, where Gustav Nyquist came up with the puck after a battle along the boards. A 2-on-1 break formed, and a great pass to Henrik Zetterberg left a wide open net, where he made no mistake tying the game.
The game would continue as a defensive battle, as the end of regulation drew near. With just under two minutes to go, Brandon Saad’s fore-checking knocked the puck off Zetterberg’s stick, and the Red Wing found himself on the ice. Saad got the puck to Andrew Shaw, who entered the zone without much coverage. Shaw dropped the puck back to Niklas Hjalmarsson, who sniped a slap-shot past Howard to give the Blackhawks the lead, or so they thought. Stephen Walkom blew his whistle just seconds before after Kyle Quincey started roughing up Saad after the play. The score would remain tied, and Walkom was on the verge of being Chicago’s next Steve Bartman. The last minute of play was a wash, and the game was off to overtime.
Game Seven overtime was hard on the blood pressure, with both teams spending good chunks of time in each others zone. Dave Bolland had the Blackhawks’ best chance, a one-timer in the high slot, that Howard steered away. Pavel Datsyuk had a point-blank look, but Crawford stayed strong, setting the stage.
A great check by Bolland knocked the puck loose. Seabrook saw an opening as the Wings’ defenders were on their heels. His shot tipped off the heel of Niklas Kronwall, and the resulting knuckle-puck went up and over Howard.
It was a fitting send-off. These two teams have met 16 times in the post-season, and with the Wings moving to the Eastern Conference in 2013-14, it will be few and far between from now on. In the end, the Red Wings simply ran out of gas. After staving off elimination twice in the first round, they could not get it done three times, and let the Blackhawks not only back into the series but on to the next round.
Brent Seabrook became only the fourth defenseman to score a game seven overtime goal. Also in that company: the legendary Bobby Orr.
The Blackhawks became the 25th team to come back from a 3-1 deficit; no Blackhawks team has ever done so before.
Underneath all the history, and rivalry, the most important part of the game remains; the Blackhawks were halfway there, one step closer to the Stanley Cup.