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Chicago Blackhawks Top Playoff Wins: Rivalry Comeback

By Colin Likas
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Which opponent of the Chicago Blackhawks do you consider the franchise’s biggest rival? As of late, it’s probably the St. Louis Blues. The Vancouver Canucks were a fierce rival for about four years early in the Joel Quenneville era. Teams like the Minnesota Wild like to believe they’re rivals with the Blackhawks, but that’s more a situation of that team wanting to be like the Blackhawks. (Maybe Blackhawks-Wild can be like Blackhawks-North Stars someday).

But there’s always the old fallback in the Detroit Red Wings, the old Original Six rival. Wins for the Blackhawks against the Red Wings, and vice versa, are considered a point of pride. That was especially true for Chicago when Detroit was the class of the NHL, not so long ago.

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Back when the Blackhawks and Red Wings met in the 2009 Western Conference finals, it was the young guns against a veteran club with a closing championship window. Then they met again in the 2013 Western Conference semifinals. The roles weren’t exactly reversed, but the Blackhawks were the team on the rise while the Red Wings were trying to hang around the Stanley Cup scene.

And yet, Detroit sprinted out to a 3-1 series lead and put the President’s Trophy-winning Blackhawks a step from a shocking playoff exit. That’s where we pick up today in our countdown of the most memorable Chicago postseason wins under Coach Q.

Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.

No. 59: 2013 Western Conference semifinals, Game 5

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Detroit Red Wings 1

This game has a certain level of memorability because it contains a gleam of “We’re not taking this crap anymore” from the Blackhawks. They had lost the previous three games to a major underdog in Detroit (with coach Mike Babcock displaying his usual magic while managing an inferior team) and were returning to the United Center out of strikes. The stats from this outing certainly show that.

Not only did Chicago overwhelm Detroit offensively in this one, putting 45 shots on Jimmy Howard compared to the 26 the Red Wings fired at Corey Crawford, they added chippy attitude to give Detroit an idea of what it would have to handle to move on to the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks compiled six minor penalties, including two for unsportsmanlike conduct and two for roughing. Against the Blues, this might happen without much surprise. Against Detroit, it probably means something extra.

The grind-it-out attitude translated to the first Chicago goal, when Michal Handzus won a board battle near the offensive-zone blue line and chipped the puck to an entering Bryan Bickell. No. 29 carried it toward Howard and lifted a backhander on net, which was turned aside. Then, a clown car’s worth of players poured toward the rebound, with Handzus and Patrick Kane helping send the puck to a wide-open Bickell, who had shifted to the side of the net opposite everyone else. Bickell slammed the puck home for a 1-0 Blackhawks lead 14 minutes into the first period.

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  • The shot was so hard and precise, it hit the in-goal camera point blank and temporarily blurred the video feed, as you can see in the above highlight package. That’s the Bickell we like to see.

    Neither team would score again for a bit, but the Blackhawks received some great chances midway through the second. On one, Jonathan Toews streaked toward Howard and was taken down to the ice by a defenseman while putting the puck into Howard’s right skate. Toews got to his knees and kept jamming at the puck, along with other Blackhawks coming in from behind the play. The puck did cross the line, but only after the referee blew his whistle, enforcing the unfortunate “lost sight of the puck” rule.

    Next, a turnover at Detroit’s offensive-zone blue line saw Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith chasing the puck back toward Howard, with Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad dogging him the entire way. Smith would eventually fall down, essentially giving the Blackhawks a 2-on-0. But Howard stoned Saad on the play, keeping the score 1-0.

    It wouldn’t stay that way for long. A ridiculous backhand saucer pass from Henrik Zetterberg flew cross ice and to the side of the net opposite what Crawford was covering. Dan Cleary beat his chasing Blackhawks defender to the puck and roofed a tip-in to tie the game at 1 almost 10 minutes into the middle frame.

    Chicago got that goal back about three minutes later, tallying the game-winner on a powerplay when Duncan Keith launched a shot from the point. Andrew Shaw was doing what he always should on a man advantage by standing in front of Howard. He lifted his stick and tipped the puck past Howard, temporarily confusing the TV play-by-play man in the highlight package and giving the Blackhawks a new lead.

    And then Toews showed just how talented he is on another powerplay about two minutes after Shaw’s strike. After winning an offensive-zone faceoff, Toews received a puck cycled from Keith (on a nice keep in) to Hossa to the captain. Toews received the puck with his skate and kicked it to his stick, waited momentarily and fired the puck in a small space off Howard’s left shoulder and into the twine, lifting Chicago to a two-goal edge.

    But the Blackhawks didn’t sit on their lead in the third period. They just kept firing the puck at Howard from pretty much every spot on the ice. It paid off when Shaw sent a pass to Handzus between the circles. The old center fired the puck off the end boards, and it slowly caromed to Howard’s right. The goaltender was very far from his crease to contest Handzus’ shot, and he never got back to stop Shaw, who had circled behind the net, collected the rebound and deposited it into a nearly empty net for a 4-1 lead.

    Pretty much every scoring bid in the third period in the above highlight video comes from Chicago. And many of them were solid chances. That’s one way to make sure you don’t get eliminated from the playoffs.

    The Blackhawks would go on to win by that 4-1 margin, forcing a sixth game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. It would also lead to a very memorable later game in this series as well. Just another day in one of hockey’s oldest rivalries.

    Previous entries

    No. 60 | No. 61 | No. 62 | No. 63 | No. 64 | No. 65 | No. 66 | No. 67 | No. 68 | No. 69 | No. 70 | No. 71 | No. 72 | No. 73

    Next: Blackhawks Trivia Tuesday: Single-Season Playoff Records

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