Who is your least-favorite individual opponent, as a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks? That question can be tough to answer, depending on how long you’ve been following the team. A more-recent option would certainly be Raffi Torres, whose constant attempts to decapitate his foes get pretty old pretty quickly. You might’ve noticed a distinct lack of Torres in the 2014-15 season, and that’s because he didn’t play after blowing out his knee way back in 2013.
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So why are we talking about Torres? Well, he’s an important piece of the next entry on our countdown of top Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville. His grit, or whatever you call the stupidity he brings to the table, probably fueled the Blackhawks to this win, and a few others immediately afterward.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 41: 2011 Western Conference first round, Game 4
Chicago Blackhawks 7, Vancouver Canucks 2
Many Blackhawks fans probably remember Torres for his insanely illegal hit on Marian Hossa in the 2012 first-round playoff series against Phoenix/Arizona. But a year prior, he more or less pulled the same maneuver on Brent Seabrook as a member of the Canucks, in Game 3 of this series. It was deemed a two-minute interference penalty despite looking a lot like elbowing and charging. Seabrook finished the game but would not suit up for Game 4, the one we’re talking about in this post.
On top of that, the Blackhawks trailed in the series 3-0 and were on the verge of being swept in the United Center. So, how did they respond? Angrily.
Da Windy City
A goofy little play got the scoring started early for the men in the Indian Head. Brian Campbell was attempting to clear the zone with a pass to Michael Frolik, who tipped it to Dave Bolland along the boards. While being held up, Bolland managed to nudge it to Bryan Bickell at center ice. Bickell showed some impressive moves by dancing around noted pylon Kevin Bieksa, then outwaited Roberto Luongo for a tap-in while falling to the ice. The Blackhawks were off and running less than two minutes in.
Well, not quite off and running. For a bit, it looked like this would be a tight affair. Bolland was sent off for elbowing less than five minutes into the period, and Vancouver utilized good puck movement in creating a goal, which ultimately came off a shot from Sami Salo’s stick up high. It’s worth noting this was Corey Crawford’s first playoff series as the Blackhawks starting goaltender.
Things got dicey on another penalty kill for Chicago, following a Duncan Keith cross-checking penalty. Alex Edler launched a shot from the point on the ensuing powerplay, and it rattled around in front of Crawford. Ryan Kesler tried to poke it home, resulting in a big save … by Niklas Hjalmarsson.
This is easier than blocking a puck with my throat. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Luongo had to make a big stop on both Viktor Stalberg and Jonathan Toews before the period ended, but there would only be two goals and four penalty minutes in the opening 20. Those numbers would soon rise.
Campbell rang a shot off the post less than two minutes into the second, but he’d get another scoring chance courtesy Patrick Kane. Campbell started the play by carrying the puck out of the defensive zone and finding Kane ahead of the offensive blue line. Kane showed good patience and found Campbell pinching in cross-ice. The defenseman wired a shot past Luongo to put the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 less than six minutes into the frame.
That would open the floodgates, for real this time. Less than 20 seconds later, Frolik beat Edler to a puck in the corner at Luongo’s left. Edler than lost an edge, giving Frolik plenty of space to make a play. He found Keith breaking into the zone, and the future Braveheart quoter slapped a shot of his own past Luongo. Keith also lost himself for a moment, celebrating pretty wildly after the goal. The frustration of losing the series’ first three games was being taken out on that goal.
The Cancuks had some decent scoring chances here and there ahead of the next Chicago goal. That would come later in the middle period, with about five minutes to go. Campbell started another play from the defensive zone, this time clearing the puck to Bickell along the boards. After some good effort, Bickell chipped it along to Frolik entering the Vancouver zone. While Frolik wasn’t able to catch the puck, he did apply pressure to Christian Ehrhoff. That resulted in a poor attempted clearing pass, which found Bolland entering the zone. He used the open ice in front of him to get closer and closer to Luongo before just launching a shot past Bobby Lu for a 4-1 Chicago lead.
This is what we call open ice. (Screenshot from YouTube)
The Blackhawks were far from done though. The phrase “have yourself a night” absolutely applies to the trio of Bickell, Bolland and Frolik in this game, and they’d solidify that when Bolland beat Salo to a loose puck at center ice and just poked it beautifully to a streaking Frolik. The future Cory Schneider destroyer made some moves, was interfered with and easily potted a breakaway goal to put the Blackhawks ahead 5-1.
So there’s some of that scoring I mentioned earlier. But what of the penalties? Only four more minutes worth were recorded in the middle frame.
Unfortunately, the above video doesn’t show the ridiculousness that was the third period. Oh sure, it shows the goals. But these teams had clearly had enough of each other, with elements like Torres’ hit on Seabrook, a lopsided score in this game, a lopsided series lead for Vancouver and the previous two years of hatred all festering into 90 penalty minutes in the third period alone.
Viktor Stalberg got in a fight. (Screenshot from hockey-reference.com)
It appears John Scott was the one to attempt to avenge the fallen Seabrook, as he and Torres went off for misconducts at the same time. Somehow, Maxim Lapierre managed to start and end this period’s penalty summary with a misconduct sandwiched in between. Scott managed two misconducts, Stalberg got in a fight with Bieksa, and Toews and Hjalmarsson received rough penalties.
Oh, and actual hockey was played in the third period. Patrick Sharp would send Luongo to the showers with a powerplay slapper from the circle to Luongo’s right. Bobby Lu’s statline for the night: six goals allowed on 28 shots for a .786 save percentage. Ouch.
The Blackhawks weren’t a whole lot nicer to Schneider, with Sharp tapping in his second goal of the night from the right doorstep to convert a 4-on-3 chance late in the period. Daniel Sedin pointlessly tallied on a powerplay not long after that to conclude the scoring.
There was no rolling over and dying from this Blackhawks team. They seemed fueled by the loss of Seabrook and ragdolled Vancouver for about half of this game. This rout would lead to some more memorable wins later in the series, including one we haven’t touched on yet.
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