During the National Hockey League’s downtime, we at Blackhawk Up need to find interesting ways to keep you Chicago Blackhawks fans entertained while waiting for another exciting hockey season. Today begins a new daily series that will help kill some time before Opening Night 2015.
Joel Quenneville took over as the Blackhawks’ head coach in the 2008-09 season, and the team has qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs each season under Q. Blackhawks fans are well aware this hasn’t resulted in a series of early exits, as the team has earned three Stanley Cups and qualified for the Western Conference finals five times in seven seasons.
All of this postseason success has equaled 73 victories for the Blackhawks in playoff action. And this post will count them down, one a day, from least to most memorable. Of course, each fan will have his or her own opinion on which of the Blackhawks’ playoff wins are most memorable, and there’s no real criteria I’ll use in this post. I’ll simply rank the team’s playoff wins under Q, offer an explanation and look forward to hearing what readers have to say in the comments section.
So, without further ado, let the rankings begin …
No. 73: Game 2, 2014 Western Conference semifinals
Chicago Blackhawks 4, Minnesota Wild 1
It’s difficult to rank Blackhawks playoff wins, especially when you watch highlights from those of past seasons. Every clip of a Chicago win brings some goosebumps. But the list has to start somewhere, and playoff games against Minnesota under Q haven’t generated many long-lasting memories. This outing was tight throughout, as the Blackhawks led by one goal much of the way. But Chicago did enough to earn a 2-0 edge in the playoff series, which was heading for two games at Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center.
The scoring opened at 11:02 in the opening frame, as Marian Hossa was doing a little cherry picking behind the Wild defense. Bryan Bickell, who was still useful during these playoffs, found Hossa with a beautiful pass from the defensive zone, leaving Hossa one-on-one against Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Hossa was stoned on his breakaway attempt, but the puck bounced off Bryzgalov and into the air, landing to Bryzgalov’s left. Jonathan Toews beat Mikko Koivu back down the ice to put the puck in the net and give the Blackhawks a lead.
Bryzgalov being in the net is one reason why this game is ranked where it is. Defeating Bryzgalov should have been a given for the Blackhawks at this point, as the Wild had gone through many goaltenders throughout the season. It wasn’t necessarily the biggest challenge for the Blackhawks.
Da Windy City
There would be no scoring and not much of great remembrance between Hossa’s goal and the next strike. Corey Crawford and Bryzgalov each had to make some strong saves, and some posts were hit by shots as well. But Brandon Saad was next to dent the twine, taking another nice feed from Bickell right above the circles with about a minute left in the second period. Saad had his shot nicked slightly, sending it high between Bryzgalov’s shoulder and the crossbar.
Minnesota’s contribution to this game came in the form of a third-period goal created by Clayton Stoner. All games involving Stoner-related scoring are usually worth putting out of mind. He fooled Crawford and the Blackhawks defense by finding an unattended Cody McCormick, who slipped the puck past everyone to cut Chicago’s lead to one just two minutes into the frame.
From there, the Wild pressed hard. This resulted in the real highlight of the game, when Crawford made a sprawling stick save on Zach Parise about three minutes into the third period. The puck wound up on top of the net, and that was as close as the Wild would get to scoring the rest of the evening.
The Blackhawks iced the game with a Bickell goal at the 17:15 mark in the third, and Saad potted his second goal of the game on an empty net about 1:20 later.
This win made sure the Blackhawks held on to home ice against the Wild, but it wasn’t terribly memorable for much. It was simply another stepping stone in Chicago’s bid for a Stanley Cup, though that would ultimately fall short in 2014.
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