Top Chicago Blackhawks Playoff Wins: Calm Before The Storm

By Colin Likas

While we can all remember how successful the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks were, it’s amazing to think that record-setting win streak to start the lockout-shortened season almost meant nothing due to an old rival.

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After the Blackhawks earned the President’s Trophy and rolled past the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, they ran into the Detroit Red Wings. This wasn’t a powerhouse Red Wings team of old, but a rebuilding one that struggled to qualify for the postseason. But as a Mike Babcock-led team tends to do, Detroit overachieved, and things got nasty real fast for Chicago in this Western Conference semifinal series.

But before things got scary, they got off on the right foot in this series’ opening game. And that’s where we head today on our countdown of top Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.

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

No. 48: 2013 Western Conference semifinals, Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Detroit Red Wings 1

I’m just going to come out and say it: The Blackhawks should have never lost three games to this team, especially not three in a row. Chicago iced a far superior team in this series, but playing against Detroit is never easy. The Red Wings, coached by Babcock or not, have a way of just hanging around and striking when the moment is right. Sounds like the current Blackhawks, to some extent.

As lopsided as the final score looked, and as lopsided as the offensive statistics were, this game was close throughout in the only spot that mattered: on the scoreboard. The Blackhawks were coming off an overtime win against Minnesota to seal a five-game series, while the Red Wings needed to win Games 6 and 7 against Anaheim to complete an upset of the Ducks in the first round. Though the Wings had played more recently, the Blackhawks were the ones who came flying out of the gate.

While the play-by-play announcer in the above video, Bob Cole, was still reading off the starting lineups for each team, Marian Hossa was using a brutal forecheck to frustrate a Wings defenseman. That resulted in the puck skirting away to Jonathan Toews right in front of Jimmy Howard. Toews was in very tight and would’ve had a hard time getting a good shot off, so he waited for Brandon Saad to come in for a one-timer between the circles. Though the shot was sent wide, it set a good tone for the Blackhawks.

That tone carried over to the first Chicago goal, coming on the powerplay. The Red Wings again got sloppy in their defensive zone trying to break out, and Patrick Sharp flew through for a steal from two players in the winged wheel. Sharp tapped the puck to Toews, who threw it over to Hossa right above the circles, and the powerful forward absolutely hammered home a shot past a helpless Howard, putting the Blackhawks ahead 1-0 about nine minutes in.

Cole notes after the goal how Hossa has “been sooooo, sooooo hot.” Which calls to mind …

The Red Wings needed less than two minutes to respond, scoring on a play that might remind you of Andrew Desjardins‘ goal against Nashville in the 2015 playoffs. Damien Brunner entered the offensive zone with Gustav Nyquist, and Brunner flung a shot into the shinpads of Brent Seabrook. But the persistent Wings forwards each went after still-rolling puck and combined for a shot on Corey Crawford. The goaltender allowed a rebound, and Brunner was there on the doorstep to slam it home and tie the contest at 1.

The Red Wings managed just 21 shots in this game, compared to the Blackhawks’ 41, but Detroit would offer some good chances later in the first period. A pair of minor penalties against Andrew Shaw helped them create some bids, but good sticks on the ice by the Blackhawks’ penalty killers stifled the Detroit attack.

Seabrook would have the next good Chicago chance after being skated around by Brunner and Nyquist on the Detroit goal. Hossa carried the puck through offensive-zone traffic and found Toews behind Howard. Seabrook was pinching in, and Toews fed him with a centering pass from below the goal line. Seabrook didn’t get good wood on that, but he followed up with a shot that Howard nicked with his glove.

That little black speck in the air is the puck. (Screenshot from YouTube)

The second period was filled with opportunities, with most going to the Blackhawks as a result of poor defensive-zone puck management and penalties by the Wings. Some Chicago penalties in the second gave Detroit a few bids as well. The Blackhawks second line of Sharp-Michal HandzusPatrick Kane was all over the ice in the middle frame, racking up shots from different angles and positions.

Dave Bolland had a pretty great chance before he received a double minor later in the period, taking a centering pass from Kane on the man advantage and absolutely walloping a one-timer into Howard’s right shoulder. The puck flew into the air, but the goaltender eventually froze it.

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  • Hossa would have a good chance later in the period when Toews and Michal Rozsival combined to keep Detroit from effectively breaking out of its defensive zone (recurring theme). Toews wound up with the puck and made a beautiful pass through a Red Wings players’ legs and right to Saad, who dropped it over to Hossa for a slapper than Howard snared with a fast glove.

    The third period would eventually see the Blackhawks take advantage of their chances, though it would take some time. Johnny Oduya and Rozsival each got in on the offensive action by skating the puck all the way to the circles and attempting separate wrist shots early in the frame. Howard stopped both of those.

    More sloppy play by the Wings in their defensive zone led to a Bolland breakaway not even five minutes into the period. Bolland tried to deke Howard but instead wound up getting in too tight to do much of anything other than stuff the puck inside the post to Howard’s left. Unluckily for Bolland, Howard had it covered with a pad and skate to keep things tied.

    Dave Bolland’s 475th breakaway as a Blackhawk. (Screenshot from YouTube)

    The Blackhawks would finally break through again nearly 40 game minutes after their first goal. Handzus, Kane and Sharp showed good possession and worked the puck to one another along the boards, waiting for someone to open up. That someone was Oduya pinching in above the circles. Sharp saw the defenseman, but no one else did, leaving Oduya with tons of time to wire a shot off one of the posts and past Howard for a 2-1 Chicago edge. And literally right as Cole was saying, “It looks like it’s only a matter of time” regarding Chicago scoring. Good job, Bob.

    Something very strange would happen next: Daniel Carcillo helped offensively. If you need a moment after reading that, I understand. Compared to the great chances the Blackhawks had earlier in this game, their third goal was fluky as all get out. Nick Leddy (miss you) dumped the puck in behind Howard, and it caromed off the end boards and plopped down on top of the goal meshing just above the ice. Howard noticed this and tried to stick it free, but couldn’t do so.

    Puck, sit. Good puck. (Screenshot from YouTube)

    Carcillo was the first one to the scene, poking the puck out of the mesh and through the blue paint. Michael Frolik couldn’t get a stick on it, but Marcus Kruger found it and deposited it behind Howard on the backhand, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead about 2:30 after Oduya’s tally.

    This one wasn’t wrapped up just yet, though. It was a game against Detroit, after all. With about 2:50 to go, defenseman Jakub Kindl slapped one toward Crawford. Crow made the initial save, but Brunner was on the doorstep for a quick follow-up wrist shot. The puck glanced off the crossbar and appeared ready to drop over the red line and behind Crawford, but Seabrook showed phenomenal hand-eye coordinator in making a save while Brunner celebrated, thinking he had scored under the crossbar. Even Cole thought it was a goal.

    *Gulp* (Screenshot from YouTube)

    But it wasn’t meant to be for Detroit. About two minutes later, Sharp iced the game with an empty-netter, putting the Blackhawks ahead 1-0 in this series.

    It would be another 10 days before the Blackhawks won again, and that might be why this game gets lost in the shuffle. There were clearly some entertaining moments, but this series would have plenty more to offer later on.

    Previous entries

    No. 49 | No. 50 | No. 51 | No. 52 | No. 53 | No. 54 | No. 55 | No. 56 | No. 57 | No. 58 | No. 59 | 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

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