We’ve been exploring a lot of Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins against the Minnesota Wild in this countdown, which is looking at the top Blackhawks postseason victories under coach Joel Quenneville. There’s a reason for this: Chicago and Minnesota have matched up 15 times with Q behind the bench.
But that’s not the leading tally between the Blackhawks and another team in the postseason. That honor goes to the Vancouver Canucks, whom the Blackhawks have met 19 times since the start of the 2009 playoffs. We’re going back to that particular year in today’s post.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 62: 2009 Western Conference semifinals, Game 5
Chicago Blackhawks 4, Vancouver Canucks 2
A fun treat in the above video: We have Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk calling a conference semifinal game! This was before NBC made sure local outlets couldn’t call games past the first round.
Foley does make a good observation as the game concludes, saying the Blackhawks allowed just 21 shots in this game and 10 over the last 40 minutes. But the game was far tighter than that would indicate.
The game was held in Riot City, Canada, just two days after Chicago evened the series at 2 with a 2-1, Game 4 overtime victory at the United Center. This was at a time when the former rivalry between these teams was reaching its height, with key pot-stirrers like Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Alexandre Burrows suiting up for Vancouver, and guys like Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd skating for Chicago.
Da Windy City
The game’s first good chance came when Kyle Wellwood slipped a pass from behind the Chicago net out in front of Nikolai Khabibulin. Taylor Pyatt was on the doorstep, but Khabibulin made a nice left arm save to keep the game scoreless about 7 minutes in.
The Blackhawks would wind up striking first after Sami Pahlsson and Kris Versteeg (yes, that Kris Versteeg) displayed some good puck management behind Roberto Luongo. Versteeg found Brian Campbell at the point, where Soupy lasered a puck toward Luongo. Bobby Lu made the first save, but Byfuglien skated through a couple motionless Canucks to put home the rebound, giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead nearly 16 minutes into the opening frame.
Vancouver would tie the game just 2 1/2 minutes later on the powerplay. Wellwood held the puck along the boards and fed … the skate of Brent Seabrook. From there, the puck went off Kesler’s stick and through Khabibulin’s legs. Thus continuing a history of Kesler generally being annoying.
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A funny observation from Foley around the 15-minute mark of the second period: He notes Niklas Hjalmarsson is playing in his 30th consecutive game with the Blackhawks on this night, adding that he’s been a “wonderful addition” to the lineup. Yeah, you could say that.
The Blackhawks struggled a bit with overall puck control in this game, and it led to Vancouver’s second goal midway through the second. Pahlsson missed a centering pass in front of Luongo, leading the Canucks on a 3-on-2 break. The result was Henrik Sedin feeding Mats Sundin for a slapper that found its way past Khabibulin, putting the Canucks up 2-1.
But before the period ended, Chicago would strike again. A failed Vancouver clear on a Blackhawks powerplay led the puck to Campbell, who made a short pass to Byfuglien in the slot. He snapped a shot past Luongo to tie things up at 2.
Something you don’t see on the highlight video that happened in this period: Shane O’Brien received a 12-minute roughing penalty, according to Hockey Reference. Versteeg and Bieksa also received penalties at the same time, as did Chicago defenseman Matt Walker, who notched a 10-minute misconduct. Just another love affair between these teams.
Khabibulin needed to be on his best in the third period, as the Canucks received multiple odd-man rushes as a result of poor passing or stationary defensemen. But the Russian was up to the task, and the Blackhawks backed him up on a powerplay with about 5 minutes to go. Patrick Kane captured a Duncan Keith missed shot and threw it cross ice to Dave Bolland. Luongo couldn’t move side to side fast enough, leaving Bolland with an open net and Chicago with a 3-2 lead.
The happiness on Kane’s face after this place is priceless. He gives Bolland a look as if to say, “Yeah, I totally did that.” It was only the beginning of such moments for No. 88.
The game’s final goal was absolutely hilarious from Chicago’s perspective. Luongo had been pulled, and the Canucks were trying to set up a play with about 1 minute left. A Vancouver pass back to the point saw the puck skitter by a fallen Kesler and another fallen Canuck, with both apparently forgetting ice is slippery. It left Marty Havlat with an easy skate to an empty net, closing out the game.
The Blackhawks went up 3-2 in the series heading back to the United Center, where a very memorable game would take place (it checks in much later on this countdown). And while this game was also fun, it doesn’t have quite as much staying power as many of the others on this list.
One cool takeaway from this outing comes from watching the highlight video. You can sense how excited Foley is throughout the affair, with his voice getting higher and louder each time the Blackhawks have success. He was almost a representation of the city of Chicago, ready to break out from a long hockey slumber. Neat stuff.
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