After a day off from our countdown of the most memorable Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville, we resume with an outing from one of the team’s two short runs in the current era.
For the third time in as many seasons, the Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks matched in the postseason. Unlike in 2009 and 2010, however, this series fell in the opening round, with Chicago seeded eighth and Vancouver earning the President’s Trophy for most regular-season points.
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These Blackhawks were coming off the first salary cap purge and had enough flaws to only qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs because Dallas lost its season finale. They were pretty much trying to pull a 2015 Los Angeles Kings, without the apparent substance abuse problems.
This series was, overall, pretty memorable for a first-round exit. It’s also our first entry from this series in our countdown. So let’s get to it.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 60: 2011 Western Conference first round, Game 5
Chicago Blackhawks 5, Vancouver Canucks 0
This series is probably the second most memorable one the Blackhawks have lost in the Quenneville era, behind the 2014 Western Conference finals series against Los Angeles. But the power here was jammed mostly into three Chicago victories and the Game 7 overtime defeat. In Game 5 of this series, the Blackhawks were coming off a drubbing of the Canucks in Game 4 to stave off a four-game sweep at the hands of a team that included Ryan Kesler. Thank goodness for avoiding that.
Roberto Luongo was lit up for six goals on 28 shots in the previous outing, and this one wouldn’t go much better for ol’ Bobby Lu. But the game’s first good scoring chance went to Vancouver just a couple minutes in after Brian Campbell drew a quick cross checking penalty. A scramble alongside Corey Crawford saw the goaltender turn his back to everyone else on the ice in search of the puck. When he turned back around, he needed to make a quick shoulder save on Chris Higgins to keep the game scoreless.
A Chicago powerplay four minutes later would see the first tally. Duncan Keith was ready to carry the puck through the neutral zone, but he instead dumped it off to Marian Hossa for a loop around and renewed rush. As the play-by-play announcer in the above highlight package finishes telling the audience how Hossa had yet to score in these playoffs, the stealthy Slovak simply skated past two Canucks and fired the puck past Luongo from beyond the circles, getting the Blackhawks off to a great start.
Da Windy City
Hossa’s high arm pumps as a goal celebration are also pretty hilarious. He seems a lot more in control with his celebrations nowadays.
Chicago would strike again just 24 seconds later when former Canuck Ryan Johnson snagged a rebound in front of Luongo and threw a backhand pass to Keith at the point. The future Conn Smythe winner fired a rocket of a shot that was in and out of the net so quickly, the TV play-by-play man needed a few seconds to call the goal. But a goal it was, and the Blackhawks were staked to a plenty comfortable 2-0 edge.
But you don’t just stop scoring when you’re comfortable. The Blackhawks have always known that, and on another powerplay 12:17 into the first, Keith launched another big shot from the point. This one struck the stick of Patrick Kane, rang off the crossbar and flew into the net, further shredding Luongo’s confidence, and Alain Vigneault‘s confidence in him.
The enjoyable part of this game is it probably could’ve ended with an 8-0 score. An example why came with about 3:30 to go in the first, as a Canucks player put himself out of position going for a huge hit behind the play (stunning). As a result, Patrick Sharp had a clean breakaway at Luongo. We know how Sharp breakaways tend to end, though. Luongo made the save, and the lead was kept at 3. It was far from the last breakaway the Blackhawks would be gifted in this game. To rub it in a bit, however, Campbell lit up Henrik Sedin with a clean hit in open ice that actually had to do with the ongoing action. Little things like that are what tend to separate teams with championship experience from those without it.
Chicago quickly atoned for its missed breakaway 1:26 into the second frame. After a save by Crawford (and interference by Alexandre Burrows that would have led to a penalty), Hossa blew through everyone and accepted a great stretch pass from Sharp. Hossa rang one past Luongo, displayed his goofy double fist pump celebration again and sealed Bobby Lu’s night in net. The embattled goaltender permitted four goals on just 12 shots, though his team didn’t help him too much. That ran his two-game total (which accounted for far less than two games’ worth of minutes) to 10 goals allowed on 40 shots. Good times.
Everyone’s favorite red-headed goaltender (sorry, Devan Dubnyk) then entered the game in Cory Schneider. The Blackhawks gave him little time to get settled, as some nice passing near the offensive-zone blue line saw Keith corral the puck all alone above the slot and rifle it past Schneider for the game’s final goal, though about 35 minutes remained to be played.
From there, Schneider and Crawford traded some solid saves, including rebound, breakaway and odd-man bids. Schneider likely endeared himself to Vigneault by standing strong in the face of a continued Chicago push after allowing an early goal, though the Blackhawks managed only 14 shots on him in about 39 game minutes. Crawford wasn’t going anywhere for Game 6 despite some fans probably saying he should’ve allowed fewer than zero goals. (Or was this before those fans hated him for no reason?) Crow’s ledger read 36 saves on 36 shots at the end of this one, securing his first career postseason shutout.
This game (and series) also reminds us that Chris Campoli and John Scott were a defensive duo. No matter what the Blackhawks end up trotting out on the ice as a third pairing in 2015-16, it cannot possibly be worse than that. Some of Vancouver’s better scoring chances came with either one or both of the two chasing a Canuck and/or being out of position. Too bad Johnny Oduya couldn’t have shown up a year sooner.
This game also saw some more of the continued hatred between these squads, with the teams racking up 24 penalty minutes after the horn sounded to end the second period. That included Troy Brouwer and Kevin Bieksa getting in a fight, something rare for the Blackhawks early in the Quenneville era unless the Canucks were around.
While this game was part of a memorable series and was a very positive result for Chicago, it was never really close or in doubt, dropping it down a few pegs on our countdown.