We’re closer to the finish line than we were yesterday in our look at the top Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville, of which there are a whopping 73 to rank. This early in the list, it isn’t easy to decide which games don’t exactly stack up in terms of long-term memorability.
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All 73 of these victories will always be important to the Chicago franchise, and they all have at least a little something that makes them stick out to Blackhawks fans. So what does No. 71 offer? Let’s find out.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 71: 2014 Western Conference finals, Game 1
Chicago Blackhawks 3, Los Angeles Kings 1
It’s tough to place a game from this series as far down in this list as Game 1 of 2014’s Western Conference finals series is. Many felt the matchup between the Blackhawks and Kings was the real Stanley Cup Final, as no matter team won the Eastern Conference finals series between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, they would be deemed far inferior to the Blackhawks or Kings.
The other two Blackhawks wins in this series rank far above this one, which ultimately was a feeling-out type of affair. The Blackhawks were coming off a series-clinching overtime victory against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference semifinals, and many fans likely remembered the Blackhawks’ quick disposal of the Kings in the 2013 Western Conference finals. And while this series would ultimately prove to be memorable as a whole, its opening game was more or less just another win for the Blackhawks.
After both teams had a few scoring chances early in the first period, in front of a pumped-up United Center crowd, Brandon Saad opened the scoring with a tip-in past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Blackhawks displayed great puck possession during a powerplay (stunning, right?), and Nick Leddy eventually took the puck near the point. Undefended, Chicago’s biggest 2014 salary cap casualty let loose a big shot, which went off the stick of Chicago’s biggest 2015 salary cap casualty and past Quick for a 1-0 Blackhawks edge 14:46 into the game.
Da Windy City
It’s interesting to note the scoring powerplay unit also contained Marian Hossa and Kris Versteeg, who fought hard in separate board battles to free the puck for Leddy. Sometimes, things that don’t seem like they’d work totally work.
Corey Crawford fended off a Kings scoring bid in the second period’s opening minute, as he played a puck behind his net out to the attacking Los Angeles forwards but got back to his crease in time to make a save. All was then quiet until the 16:38 point of the second, when Jonathan Toews put on a pretty individual display to shove the puck past Quick for a short-lived 2-0 lead. It was short-lived because the officials ruled Toews made contact with Quick that didn’t allow the often-pouty goaltender the opportunity to make a save, and thus the goal was waved off.
This would lead to a big momentum swing, as Tanner Pearson took the puck along the boards about a minute later and threw it in front of Crawford, to a streaking Tyler Toffoli. He tipped it past Crawford to tie the game and infuriate the already upset Madhouse audience.
From there, Los Angeles mostly controlled the second period, with Crawford needing to make some big saves on Kyle Clifford and Anze Kopitar, among others. But as the Blackhawks often do when they’re down, they put themselves right back on top with one big play. This time, it was a pretty simple shot by Duncan Keith from near the point. It ricocheted off the stick of Trevor Lewis, then off apparent druggie Jarret Stoll and into the twine over Quick’s shoulder about 12 minutes into the second period, putting the Blackhawks ahead for good.
Of course, there was half a game still to play, and it included tense moments and tight play. Among the big plays was Toffoli hitting a post on a breakaway bid early in the third period. But with the Kings’ defensemen taking chances in the offensive zone to try and tie the game, the Blackhawks eventually wound up with a huge odd-man rush, sending Toews, Hossa and Johnny Oduya streaking down the ice against one Los Angeles defender. Hossa, found Oduya, who hit Toews for a slapper past a sprawling Quick to put this one out of reach, at 3-1 with less than four minutes to go.
The Blackhawks won this game, but would drop the next three to the Kings in the series, setting up some fantastic theater in the series’ final three games. Crawford posted a .962 save percentage in this win, but there really wasn’t a shining moment on offense or defense to remember this game by. Just a solid, grind-it-out win for Chicago.
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