Do you remember how the Chicago Blackhawks began their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup? Actually, it started with a home loss to the Nashville Predators, but things like that tend to be forgotten when you win a championship.
The real run to the Cup, aka the first win for the Blackhawks in the 2010 playoffs, came in the second game against the Preds. That’s the outing we’ll be focusing on in today’s entry to our countdown of top Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 61: Western Conference first round, Game 2
Chicago Blackhawks 2, Nashville Predators 0
This game was actually pretty entertaining, but it tumbles down this list as a result of being the first of 16 victories in a very memorable Stanley Cup run. The Blackhawks were on the attack early in this one, with some nice passing sending Kris Versteeg, Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky (what kind of line is that?) streaking toward Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Versteeg directed the puck toward Rinne, where Hossa attempted a slight redirect that was stopped. Kopecky followed up with a shot alongside the net, and it too was stopped.
About five minutes later in the period, Hossa found himself on a line with a more familiar (in the present day) teammate in Jonathan Toews. They too would create a fantastic scoring chance, as Hossa circled around the net with the puck and fed an unguarded Toews right in front of Rinne. With a mostly open net to shoot at (Rinne had yet to move back to Toews’ side), the captain pulled a Patrick Sharp and blasted a shot off the crossbar, keeping the game knotted at 0.
Da Windy City
But the Predators weren’t about to let this be a one-sided affair. Dustin Boyd and Jerred Smithson (who?) were everywhere in this game, and they began to make their presence known with a couple sweet bids early in the second period. First, Boyd found himself with position on both Blackhawks D-men when Smithson fired the puck at Antti Niemi. He grabbed the rebound and tried to toss it around Nemo, but the goaltender spread his pads to make the first of a few sick saves.
That chance came with about 2 1/2 minutes gone in the middle frame. Three minutes later, Boyd again found himself with the puck and only Niemi to beat after Jordan Hendry forgot how to do his job. Boyd’s backhand should have found the back of the net, but Niemi fell to his side and stuck out his glove hand, perfectly shielding the net from a sliding puck.
The Blackhawks would receive their golden opportunity midway through the second when the constantly useless Jordin Tootoo earned an interference penalty for tripping Niemi while chasing Niklas Hjalmarsson. The resulting powerplay saw a pretty wonky play lead to a Chicago tally. Patrick Kane accepted a shot off the end boards behind Rinne and backhanded the puck to Toews in the slot. While all four Predators skaters and Rinne focused on Toews, Dave Bolland was sitting all alone to Rinne’s right. Toews fired a no-look spin pass to Bolland, who backhanded it into the twine for a 1-0 Chicago edge.
This picture probably sums up the scoring play better than any:
Screenshot from YouTube.
On the bottom, we see Bolland receiving the puck. At the top, we see Rinne leading a yoga class. Good times. To be fair, Rinne almost got back over in time to save Bolland’s shot, as the forward had a hard time settling the puck. The goalkeeper’s subsequent barrel roll would make Ryan Kesler proud.
We got to see another long-running theme in this game as well, and not the good kind. After Brent Seabrook launched a shot from the point and Kopecky’s rebound bid in front was stopped, the puck trickled to Hossa on Rinne’s right. (It also trickled to Versteeg, but who do you want taking the shot out of those two?) Hossa had the entire net to shoot at … until he didn’t, as Rinne flew back over and let the puck fly into his stomach. Thus, we saw another sure playoff goal taken from Hossa.
The teams traded scoring bids through the rest of the second period before the next tally not even five minutes into the third. David Legwand failed to get the puck deep in the Preds’ offensive zone, eventually sending the puck toward defenseman Dan Hamhuis near the blue line. A subtle little poke from Sharp pushing the puck past Hamhuis and sent Kane, Sharp and Bolland flying down the ice on a 3-on-1. Kane started with the puck on this play, and he finished with it too, snapping it past Rinne to put the Blackhawks up 2-0.
Like in the second period, both teams had their chances after Kane’s third-period goal. Traffic was at a maximum, and both teams attempted to tip and redirect pucks past the steady Niemi and Rinne. Ultimately, Niemi pitched the first Chicago playoff shutout since Ed Belfour in 1996 and gave the Blackhawks their first of 16 wins in the 2010 postseason.
It’s fun to recall how a championship run began, and this was a pretty strong start to the 2010 bid. Not the best of the three, but pretty strong.