As this list of most memorable Chicago Blackhawks playoff victories under coach Joel Quenneville rolls ever closer to its conclusion, we’re going to be looking at more and more games that focus on key contributions from Patrick Kane. While it’s unclear how the investigation surrounding him at the time of this post will shake out, we can’t act as though Kane isn’t a part of Blackhawks history solely because it’s a little awkward to talk about him right now.
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With that in mind, we look at a game that Kane left his mark on against a team that Kane has lit up in his Stanley Cup playoff career.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 35: 2014 Western Conference semifinals, Game 1
Chicago Blackhawks 5, Minnesota Wild 2
Oh, yeah. It’s the Wild again. We’ll eventually run out of games against these guys and get to the more exciting stuff, I promise.
This game would really take off in the third period, but we have some events to discuss in the opening two frames before we get to the final 20 minutes.
Marian Hossa created the first Blackhawks goal with one of his patented “keep the puck away from everyone else” plays. With Jonas Brodin in the box for a double-minor high-sticking penalty, Hossa carried the puck just above the circles looking for a good pass to the net. He couldn’t find it and almost had the puck taken off his stick by a Wild defender. But he quickly regained it and made the simple play, dropping the puck to Brent Seabrook at the point. Seabs had all day to power a shot on net, and it went off Bryan Bickell and past Ilya Bryzgalov for a 1-0 Chicago edge with about five minutes left in the period.
Amazingly, a fourth line that included Joakim Nordstrom and Brandon Bollig almost put the Blackhawks up by two late in the period. Nordstrom had the puck behind Bryzgalov and attempted to stuff it home short side between the post and Bryz’s left pad. Bryzgalov looked uncertain he had it, and after the whistle had blown the puck did cross the goal line by way of Bollig poking it home. The TV play-by-play team in the above video seemed to think it was a goal, but the referee’s whistle ended any speculation about that.
Da Windy City
A little bit of comedy involving the play-by-play guys: Quenneville asked referee Dan O’Halloran for an explanation after a video review. One of the TV guys told the viewers to read O’Halloran’s lips … while the referee’s back was turned to the camera. My guess is that guy was between the boards, Pierre McGuire style, and could see O’Halloran talking, but it’s still good for a chuckle.
Another great individual effort created the second Chicago goal more than halfway through the second period. Brandon Saad, making us all sad he’s gone, carried the puck from behind Bryzgalov on a powerplay and passed it off to Seabrook at the point. Seabrook chipped it to Nick Leddy, who found Saad going through the middle of the ice. Saad showed great stickhandling and at one point kicked the puck back onto his stick after losing it, eventually backhanding a pass to Hossa at the backdoor. He had a tap-in past Bryzgalov to push Chicago further ahead.
Another controversial play led off the third period and wound up getting Minnesota within one. Corey Crawford made an initial save on Clayton Stoner, but Stoner followed up with another shot that bounced over Crow’s left shoulder and toward the crease. Johnny Oduya scrambled to stick the puck away from the goal line, but it then deflected off Crawford, then off Oduya’s skate and back toward the net, and this time into the net. Stoner was credited with the goal, and the Wild had life.
Minnesota was pushing hard for its second goal after gaining momentum with the first, and it took less than five minutes for the score to be tied. Minnesota’s bottom six struck when Erik Haula kept the puck in the Chicago defensive zone, then carried it down low to Crawford’s right. Kyle Brodziak was set up on the opposite doorstep, and Haula found him with a nice pass for a game-tying tap-in.
Now, you might notice Kane has not been mentioned since the start of this post. His name is on it, for crying out loud. He apparently just wanted to wait until his scoring theatrics would be more appreciated, as a ridiculous individual effort by Kane gave Chicago what would be the game-winning goal.
Less than two minutes after Brodziak’s tally, and with Minnesota still pushing, Patrick Sharp won a board battle near his defensive-zone blue line and hit Kane with a pass cross ice. Sharp eventually caught up to help Kane out on the play, but the latter wouldn’t need it. First, he skated around Ryan Suter. Then, he skated between a backchecking Brodziak and a sprawling Brodin and roofed a shot on the backhand over Bryzgalov’s left shoulder. Very few people in the league can score a goal like that, but the Blackhawks had one of those guys in this game, and it gave them a 3-2 edge.
But Kane wasn’t done yet. With about three minutes to play, Sharp carried the puck from below Bryzgalov to the point and gave it to Oduya, who rung it around the boards. Niklas Hjalmarsson made a smart play by letting the puck skip through his legs. From there it found Sharp, who wired a shot from the point into net-front traffic that included Ben Smith. He would get a piece of the shot and deflect it over to Kane on the doorstep, leaving him a wide-open bid that he didn’t miss.
Mike Yeo emptied the Minnesota net a short time later, and the Blackhawks quickly took advantage when Bickell fired a shot from center ice into the twine for his second goal of the game, creating the final 5-2 advantage.
Though the score of this game made it look like a bit of a rout, the Wild would make a series of it down the road, though Chicago ultimately prevailed in six games. Kane’s timely offense was crucial in securing first blood in what would prove to be a semi-tight series.
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