It seems appropriate that the 68th entry on our list of the Chicago Blackhawks’ top playoff victories under coach Joel Quenneville takes us back to the early days of the core. The same core that had a large chunk taken from it Friday night with the trade of Patrick Sharp.
It’s hard to remember that the Blackhawks weren’t always the confident, experience-laden team we’ve seen in recent postseason runs. But in 2009, Chicago was making its first playoff appearance since 2002 and hadn’t won a playoff series since 1996. So when the fourth-seeded Blackhawks matched up with the fifth-seeded Calgary Flames in the opening round, some outsiders figured the men in the Indian Head would be ousted quickly.
It didn’t work out that way, and today we’re looking at one of the Blackhawks’ four wins from that series.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 68: 2009 Western Conference first round, Game 5
Chicago Blackhawks 5, Calgary Flames 1
We haven’t seen a ton of playoff routs either way in the Q tenure, so it’s always fun to go back to one that came out a Chicago victory. The Blackhawks blitzed goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and the Flames, tallying three goals in a 1-minute, 51-second stretch in the first period to put the game away early.
The first tally — a powerplay goal — was the result of a nice keep-in by Brian Campbell. He flipped the puck to Kris Versteeg, who tapped it along to Marty Havlat. (Did you know he’s only 34-years-old? It seems like he’s about 62 with all his injury issues.) Behind all of this, Brent Seabrook was pinching in, and Havlat saw him all the way. The result was a wide-open Seabrook slapping one by Kiprusoff from just above the circles 9:19 into the opening frame.
Kiprusoff would probably like to have back a few goals from this game, and Sharp’s first-period tally is one of them. After Niklas Hjalmarsson rung the puck around the boards, Jonathan Toews took it near the back of Kiprusoff’s net. He found Sharp in front, and despite behind checked from behind, Sharp got enough on a backhanded shot to push it past Kiprusoff at the 10:49 mark. The puck, similar to Patrick Kane‘s Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 2010, wedged under the mesh deep in the net, confusing almost everyone on and off the ice. Fun to remember there was precedent for unrecognized Blackhawks goals.
Da Windy City
Just 19 seconds later, the Flames turned the puck over in their defensive zone, allowing Seabrook to rip a shot from the blue line. It caromed off the end boards and right to Versteeg on the opposite side of the net. Kiprusoff had yet to adjust from tracking Seabrook’s shot, leaving Versteeg more than half an empty net to shoot at. He didn’t miss, and just like that, it was 3-0 Chicago. The damage could have been even worse in the first 20 minutes, as Kiprusoff and the Flames defensemen had to make some big saves and blocks to keep the Blackhawks from completely running away.
This first-period attack offers an early memory of the Blackhawks’ quick-strike capability as a team. There have been many times since when it seems the Blackhawks are down and out, but they score multiple goals rapid fire to turn the tables. It’s something that will likely continue as long as any pieces of the core exist.
The Flames tallied their only goal early in the second period after the Blackhawks failed to clear the puck from their defensive zone. Adam Pardy backhanded the puck toward Nikolai Khabibulin, and Dustin Boyd put home the following rebound to cut the Chicago lead to two.
But as the Blackhawks often do, they responded with more offense. Seabrook tossed the puck behind the net, and it was picked up by Dave Bolland. It eventually found Andrew Ladd, who somehow jammed the it past Kiprusoff to put Chicago up 4-1 at the 6:14 mark of the second. Then, at the 14:56 mark, Cam Barker took a centering pass from Havlat and launched it off Calgary defenseman Jim Vandermeer‘s skate and past backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney. That goal capped the scoring, and the rest of the game was elementary.
The win put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series and on a crash course with the then-hated Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference semifinals.
The only other notable event from this game was a rare postseason fight, this one between Pardy and Chicago’s Ben Eager in the third period. After Eager dropped Mike Cammalleri with a heavy hit, Pardy wanted to avenge his teammate. To the background noise of broadcaster Pierre McGuire saying “This isn’t gonna be good for Pardy,” Eager bloodied the Flames forward in a quick bout. Fighting isn’t something we often see from the Blackhawks, especially in the playoffs, so it tends to be memorable when a fight does occur.
One other takeaway from this game is some of the names involved. I hadn’t realized McElhinney has been in the league this long, and I didn’t remember him backing up Kiprusoff in this series. Noted scumbag Todd Bertuzzi, Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf also played for Calgary in this series, recalling a time when Calgary was a relatively loaded team.
Khabibulin is a name that sticks out on the Chicago side in this series. He didn’t have much to do in this game, making 19 saves on 20 shots. The Blackhawks also dressed Sammy Pahlsson and Matt Walker, who both had entirely unmemorable stints in Chicago.
We’re slowly ratcheting up the memorability of these playoffs wins, but there’s still a long way to go.
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