We’re going back to the Shark Tank in our latest entry on the countdown of top Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.
This 2010 series more or less featured the Blackhawks against Patrick Marleau, from an offensive standpoint. He tallied five goals while only two other Sharks even found the twine. The Marleau Show would come far too late in this outing, however, as the second-seeded Blackhawks again surprised the top-seeded Sharks at home.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 51: 2010 Western Conference finals, Game 2
Chicago Blackhawks 4, San Jose Sharks 2
Hey, we’ve got Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk for this highlight video! And this game isn’t on the East coast. Man, how times have changed since.
Anyway, as we’ve discovered during this countdown, the Blackhawks actually have gotten outshot a decent number of times in the playoffs under Coach Q. But this team knows how to take advantage of its opportunities, as it did against the Sha-arks despite being outshot 27-22. The first of those opportunities came when Patrick Kane stole a puck near his defensive-zone blue line about a minute in. With San Jose on a line change, Kane threw the puck to Jonathan Toews, who streaked down the ice but could only get off a backhander on Evgeni Nabakov, which the Sharks goaltender turned aside.
You could say part of the reason the Blackhawks find a way to win in the playoffs despite being outshot is strong goaltending, but there’s a certain segment of fans who just love to hate the netminder. We’re going to give Antti Niemi some love here for a pretty ridiculous save less than six minutes in. Ryan Clowe carried the puck into his offensive zone off a line change and threw it into traffic in front of Niemi. Devin Setoguchi tipped it into Niemi’s pads, but the puck was far from frozen. While tripping over the fallen Niklas Hjalmarsson, Setoguchi then managed another shot. But somehow, Niemi flew over the got his pad on that bid as well.
We also get a “Niemi … says no” from Emrick around the seven-minute mark of this game. I have no idea when he first said that, but it caught on ridiculously quickly. Or did the great Pat Foley say it first? Regardless, it probably would’ve gotten old after more than one season. Good job taking care of that, Stan Bowman.
Now, Kris Versteeg currently gets a decent amount of flak from the Blackhawks fan base. It has been deserved at times, but we’re going to recognize a pretty great play he made in this game. (He was arguably much better in 2010 than he is today; knee surgery and time will do that.) After an offensive attack was turned away from the Sharks net, Versteeg carried the puck for what felt like an eternity, eventually skating out to the blue line. There, he took a tumble and left the Sharks open for a potential 2-on-0. But Versteeg did something pretty incredible here, in that he was up to his skates again before either of those Sharks even has a chance to break away.
Though Versteeg essentially created this moment by refusing to get the puck back in deep, at least he saved his own bacon and prevented an odd-man rush afterward.
Oh, and then something else happened.
After recovering from his fall, Versteeg chipped the puck past both of those attacking Sharks to Duncan Keith at center ice. With another Shark bearing down on him, Keith sent the puck cross ice to Andrew Ladd, who simply carried it into the zone and wristed one over Nabakov’s glove for a 1-0 Blackhawks lead. It’s actually a pretty incredible sequence, especially considering no one named Kane, Toews, Hossa or Sharp was involved.
Da Windy City
This game’s highlight package is probably my favorite one so far simply because one of the clips opens with Doc shouting “WHAT CHAOS.” I have no idea how Eddie O can’t crack up every time he hears that. Usually when Doc says it though, he’s right. He uttered the phrase about seven minutes into the second period, after Toews had given the puck to Kane along the boards to the left of Nabakov. Kane skated out to the top of the circles and just threw a shot on net. It ended up tipping off Dustin Byfuglien’s stick a little ways out and finding a way past Nabakov, who was still protecting his goal in confusion after the puck had crossed the line.
Up 2-0, the Blackhawks kept attacking, with John Madden’s bid in front about a minute later getting stuffed. But the Sharks, unhappy with Nabakov getting poked at, mugged Madden and a few others Blackhawks in front, resulting in a Douglas Murray roughing penalty and a Chicago powerplay.
The Blackhawks utilized more cycling and deflection work on their man advantage to move ahead 3-0. Toews again found Kane along the boards to Nabakov’s left, but this time Kane sent the puck to Keith at the point. The most recent of the three future Conn Smythe winners (cool, huh?) blasted a shot on net, and Toews found a way to redirect it past Nabakov.
Something that strikes you about these Blackhawks is how workmanlike they were at this point. Nothing required a huge celebration or anything like that. They just got the job done, paving the way for future Chicago teams to do the same.
Of course, Marleau made sure getting the job done wouldn’t be so easy. After the referees decided the game needed to be closer (I have no idea if Dave Bolland’s penalty right after Chicago’s third goal was legit or not), Joe Thornton had all day above the circles to create a powerplay strike. He did just that, finding Marleau to Niemi’s left. Marleau wired the puck into the twine to cut Chicago’s lead to two.
It was as close as San Jose would get, as the Blackhawks stretched the lead back to three before Marleau could do more damage. This time, Marian Hossa absolutely embarrassed Niclas Wallin behind the Sharks net, flying right into Wallin, knocking him over and stealing the puck all in one swift motion. Hossa then threw it to Hjalmarsson entering the offensive zone, and the defensive-minded Swede hammered a shot at Nabakov. Troy Brouwer was ruled to have gotten a piece in front, but Hjalmarsson probably didn’t mind.
The Sharks would push the rest of the way, but they could only get one more goal, off a sloppy play in front of Niemi generated by Dan Boyle and Dany Heatley on a delayed penalty against the Blackhawks. Marleau would be the recipient of a near-empty-net to create the final margin.
The Blackhawks had already taken home ice from the Sharks in the first game, but they really put the pressure on a constantly underachieving squad after this one. Chicago was halfway to a series sweep, which the team would achieve at the United Center.
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