A terrible injustice has been made in this series, counting down the most memorable Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.
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That injustice will be explained after we take a look at the 64th entry on this list. We’re heading back to a familiar foe in the Minnesota Wild. The Blackhawks and Wild have faced off 15 times in the postseason during the Q era, with Chicago capturing 12 wins. That’s some solid success.
So which of those 12 wins (we’ve already covered two) is the subject of today’s post?
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 64: 2014 Western Conference semifinals, Game 5
Chicago Blackhawks 2, Minnesota Wild 1
This outing came on the heels of two Blackhawks losses by a combined 8-2 score at Xcel Energy Center. And things didn’t look particularly great for Chicago early in this one, either. Brent Seabrook committed a tripping penalty 29 seconds into the opening frame, giving the Wild some powerplay scoring chances. Mikko Koivu had a decent bid when he fired a shot toward two Wild players in front of Corey Crawford, but the goaltender made a save off a tip on his doorstep.
Late in the opening frame, however, the Wild would capitalize. Erik Haula was one heck of an irritant in this series, leading all Wild with five points on three goals and two assists. He netted one of those goals 16:33 into the first on a skillful individual effort. First, he outskated Patrick Kane and skated around Duncan Keith simultaneously. That alone is impressive, but then he snapped a shot on Crawford and skated around Seabrook for the rebound. Haula got enough on his second chance to send the puck off Crawford and soaring into the air … after which it landed behind Crawford and in the net.
Thankfully, it was the only marker for Minnesota in this outing. That’s good for Michal Handzus, who literally watched the puck bounce into the air and fall over the goal line. At least Seabrook swatted at it to try and knock it away. But Handzus would redeem himself later in this one.
Da Windy City
But the Blackhawks needed to play catchup after Haula’s strike. They received their chance to even the score midway through the second with a powerplay. Chicago displayed a good zone entry (amazing, considering what we saw in 2015), with the puck going from Jonathan Toews to Nick Leddy to Patrick Sharp to Kane. No. 88 threw the puck at the net, where Bryan Bickell was actually providing a screen. Kane’s shot hit Bickell on the inside of the knee, which redirected it past Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, tying the game at 1.
A comical moment occurred late in the second period when Johnny Oduya sent a rocket in the direction of Bryzgalov from near center ice. The puck hit Charlie Coyle on the way toward everyone’s favorite Russian cosmonaut, leaving Bryzgalov confused as to where it was. He then spotted it, but only just in time, as he needed to drop down and put a pad in the way to prevent an embarrassing tally.
The Blackhawks found their game-winning goal just 4:33 into the third period on a strange, sloppy play. Marian Hossa carried the puck to the offensive blue line before dumping it deep. From there, Hossa, Toews and Sharp battled to keep possession, running into Wild players and each other below the circles. The puck eventually found Sharp, who tossed it toward Bryzgalov. The goaltender batted it into the air, and Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter slapped it out of the air from there. He may’ve been better served keeping his glove down, as the slapped puck found Hossa’s stick. He backhanded it on net again, where Toews outdueled Mikael Granlund and deposited the puck behind Bryzgalov for a 2-1 Chicago edge.
From there, Crawford had to stand strong amid a wild Wild attack. While both goaltenders faced 28 shots in this game, Crawford saw several good Minnesota bids in the third period. After flashing his glove on a few saves, and after Handzus helped prevent a Minnesota goal by getting inside position on Koivu right in front of the net while Crawford was down, Crawford came up with his biggest stop with just a minute to go in the game.
Zach Parise took a pass from Jason Pominville below the net, then tried to stuff it home. He was met by about half the players on the ice (Minnesota had an empty net at this point), and a giant dogpile was created in the net. It included Crawford, who found a way to keep the puck out.
The Blackhawks hung on to win the game and went up 3-2 in this series, which they’d close out in the next game. But what of the injustice mentioned at the top of this post?
If you watch the highlight video above, you’ll notice Niklas Hjalmarsson recording a nice shot attempt early in the first period. You might also notice, as I did, the black turtleneck-looking thing he’s wearing. As soon as I saw that garment, I realized my mistake in this countdown. I opened it with Chicago’s win over Minnesota in Game 2 of this series, as the 73rd-most-memorable playoff win under Q. The same game in which Hjalmarsson took a slapshot to the throat and stayed in.
The guy wasn’t medically cleared to talk for about two weeks after this, and he kept playing. This is an example of someone, in this case me, taking Hjalmarsson and his efforts for granted. How could I have forgotten this moment in Blackhawks lore? And where would I slot Game 2 of this Minnesota series in the memorable wins list after remembering Hjalmarsson’s sacrifice? It’s tough to say, on both accounts, but it’s too late to change parts of the list that have already been covered. This is just a reminder to Blackhawks fans to appreciate what Hjalmarsson and other Chicago players have done for our entertainment and joy in recent years.
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