Stanley Cup playoff series wins weren’t always as easy for the Chicago Blackhawks to come by as they have been in recent years. The Blackhawks failed to earn four victories against a playoff opponent from the 1996-97 season through the 2007-08 campaign. So could you say the victory that sent Chicago to its first playoff series triumph since 1996 is a memorable one? Absolutely.
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But this article is being published more than six years after that win, and the franchise’s culture has changed. So the Blackhawks’ 2009 win over Calgary that advanced the team past the playoffs’ opening round for the first time in several years loses a little bit of luster, at least in my eyes. That isn’t to say it’s not memorable, but there have been more memorable wins since.
Regardless, that game is where we check in today on the countdown of the top Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 55: 2009 Western Conference first round, Game 6
Chicago Blackhawks 4, Calgary Flames 1
If you watch the above highlight video and then search the statistics from this game, they really won’t match at all. The video would lead you to believe the Blackhawks dominated the Flames from jump street and just overwhelmed them in order to close out this playoff series. In truth, Calgary recorded 44 shot attempts to Chicago’s 15. The Blackhawks simply took advantage of their opportunities, and Nikolai Khabibulin showed flashes of being the goaltender who helped Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup in 2004.
In spite of the unbalanced scoring-attempts ledger, the Blackhawks got the scoring started on a powerplay just 2:20 into the opening period. Defenseman Cam Barker showed actual usefulness on this shift, holding the puck in at the blue line and flinging it to Kris Versteeg down low, to Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff’s right. (Although Barker almost beheaded Patrick Kane with the pass, but Kane likely didn’t mind considering the end result). Versteeg winged the puck on net, where Dustin Byfuglien got a whack on Kiprusoff’s doorstep. The puck would roll to Kane, who had a wide-open net to shoot at to Kiprusoff’s left. He didn’t miss, and the Blackhawks led early.
Chicago followed with some great scoring bids in the few minutes after, with Jonathan Toews sliding a puck through the crease but wide and both Versteeg and Byfuglien just missing with shots of their own (Byfuglien’s went up high over a pretty much empty net).
Da Windy City
But Byfuglien would atone for his miscue halfway through the period. He dragged the puck into the offensive zone 1-on-1 against Jordan Leopold. Byfuglien carried it all the way behind the net and out the other side, eying up a streaking Adam Burish. With Cory Sarich barreling down on Byfuglien, the big winger/defenseman tossed the puck between the circles for Burish, who proceeded to beat Kiprusoff while multiple Flames had a nice front-row seat for the tally. The TV announcers in the above video later say Sarich was good in this game, pretty much because he was hitting people. The Blackhawks were likely very happy with a Flames player intentionally taking himself out of position for big body checks, too.
The Flames would proceed to turn up the intensity down by two goals. Rene Borque clanged a shot off the crossbar early in the second period. About four minutes later, Borque carried the puck along the boards and behind Khabibulin, eventually swinging it on net for Todd Bertuzzi to take multiple whacks right on top of the crease. Still, Khabibulin stood strong. Only a minute after that, Khabibulin had to make a sprawling, sideways save on Olli Jokinen alongside the net.
But as tends to happen when the Blackhawks are on their heels, a swift offensive response was coming. With another powerplay about 15 minutes into the second period (though Hockey Reference shows Calgary having committed one penalty in the game, which led to Chicago’s powerplay goal in the first period), Kane pushed the puck off the boards to Brian Campbell near the point. With plenty of time, Campbell wound up and sent the puck deflecting off Calgary defenseman Adam Pardy’s stick and past Kiprusoff for a 3-0 edge. As the TV play-by-play man notes, it was Campbell’s first goal in his last 50 games.
Kiprusoff had to make a couple huge saves on Toews and Kane just a couple minutes after that, with Kane actually thinking his bid had crossed the goal line. No such luck that time.
Calgary would end Khabibulin’s shutout less than a minute into the third period, with Bertuzzi roofing an awkward-angle shot over Khabibulin’s shoulder, with the goaltender covering the low portion of the net. Still, it was the only goal the Flames would be able to muster, and Byfuglien would add an empty netter late in the contest to officially close out Calgary.
With this win, the Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference semifinals to take on then-growing rival Vancouver. The victory provided a nice turning point for the franchise as a whole, showing that winning was going to be a lot more common with Q and the core around.
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