This is it. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. Okay, only I’ve been waiting for it, but it’s the last post in our countdown of most memorable Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville that features a game against the Minnesota Wild.
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It’s fitting that this game was the one I was most concerned about as a Blackhawks fan, out of all the ones against Minnesota since Q came into town. Minnesota actually looked like a credible threat in 2014 after taking two straight at Xcel Energy Center and keeping things close against the Blackhawks at the United Center in Game 5. That left us with Game 6.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 31: 2014 Western Conference semifinals, Game 6
Chicago Blackhawks 2, Minnesota Wild 1 (OT)
Before this game, Chicago had been 1-4 on the road in the postseason. That one win came in the series clincher against the St. Louis Blues in the opening round. The Blackhawks would prove again in this one that numbers don’t always tell the whole story.
The Blackhawks would open the scoring in this game very quickly when Kris Versteeg went crashing into Keith Ballard in the corner to Ilya Bryzgalov‘s left. Versteeg wound up stealing the puck from the Wild defenseman, skated toward the back of the net a bit and just flung the puck into traffic. It appeared to hit Clayton Stoner and go past Bryzgalov as Peter Regin was also on the doorstep for Chicago, but no matter how it happened, the Blackhawks were ahead 1-0 less than two minutes in.
Minnesota would respond with a good chance a few minutes later when Matt Cooke rammed into Nick Leddy along the end boards and forced a defensive-zone turnover for Chicago. Erik Haula wound up with the puck and sent it back to Ballard at the point. He fired a shot through traffic, and the puck slowed to a trickle as it careened toward the net behind Corey Crawford. But Sheldon Brookbank was there to swat the puck clear of danger. We’re pulling all kinds of old names out of the memory bank today.
Da Windy City
Zach Parise then missed a nearly wide open bid on the doorstep while Minnesota was on the powerplay midway through the frame. Jonathan Toews would turn things around before the man advantage had even ended, attempting a breakaway purely through his speed. Defenseman Jonas Brodin‘s great backchecking broke up this one, however.
These teams then put on a clinic for the remainder of the period. That clinic was teaching net-front presence, as both Crawford and Bryzgalov — especially Crow — had to make some late adjustments and quick saves to keep the score where it was.
But the irritating Haula found a way to crack the scoresheet for Minnesota early in the second. Cooke sent a bank pass from his defensive zone to where he thought Haula might end up. It was a great guess, as Haula blew through both Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, won the puck and snapped it past Crawford to tie the game at one less than three minutes into the middle period. Thankfully, it was the last of Haula’s team-leading three goals and five points in this series.
Jason Pominville would get the next big chance for Minnesota about six and half minutes into the second, hammering a shot on Crawford while streaking in along the board to Crow’s left. Crow permitted a rebound, but Oduya skated through and gobbled it up, ending the threat. It actually turned into a Chicago opportunity when Oduya threw a stretch pass all the way to Patrick Sharp for a breakaway bid. But Sharp didn’t get much on his shot, which was padded away by Bryzgalov.
Not too long later, Brandon Saad‘s attempted centering pass found a Minnesota player and was sent ahead to Justin Fontaine, who was all alone at his offensive-zone blue line. But Crawford pulled out a phenomenal glove save to keep this one knotted up.
Regin would save a goal later as well when Chicago was trapped in its defensive zone with Leddy and Brookbank on the ice. Mikael Granlund put a shot on net from about even with the circle to Crawford’s right. It hit plenty of traffic in front and bounced out to an area just above the crease — an area which Crow wasn’t covering, and which Pominville was standing right at. But Regin saw what was happening and got his stick in the way, thwarting the effort.
Shades ofBrent Seabrook
. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Marian Hossa would force a Minnesota turnover in the offensive zone not long after this, and Toews picked up the puck and found Sharp in the slot. Sharp’s shot was turned aside by the shoulder of Bryzgalov. That was followed by a Duncan Keith point shot that found nothing but Cody McCormick‘s shin pads, sending McCormick off to the races with Keith on his heels. Though Keith prevented an initial shot, McCormick relocated the puck right in front of Crawford and attempted a spinaround shot, which Crow padded aside.
Fontaine then executed a nice steal in the neutral zone and blew through the Chicago defenders for not one, but two great chances. And Crawford stoned both of those as well, the second with a sweeping glove save while sliding from one side of the crease to the other. Crow was at his acrobatic best in this game, to be sure.
So what did the Wild faithful do? They started a Crawford chant in the third period. Geniuses, these folks.
Brookbank, who wound up a plus-2 in this game, continued his tightrope act early in the third when Cooke pressured the puck away from the defenseman behind Crawford. It wound up on the stick of Haula, who sent it cross ice to Fontaine. But Brookbank wasn’t about to give up on the play, as both he and Regin dove in front of Fontaine to prevent a shot attempt.
The Wild spent the middle part of this period sending every player they could to Crawford’s crease, at one point causing the goaltender to jab Minnesota players after the whistle had blown. One such excursion saw a shot ring off the post to Crow’s left. The Blackhawks offered a little pushback here and there, but the Wild were the dominators in this third period.
So we’ve spent most of this post discussing Crawford and the bottom six on both teams. Naturally, it’d be Patrick Kane to finish things up — with help from that bottom six.
After the teams traded chances for the overtime period’s first nine minutes, a dump-in by Brent Seabrook awkwardly caromed off the end boards and out in front of Bryzgalov — but not close enough to the goaltender for him to play it. Regin was the first Blackhawk in and tied up Ryan Suter, allowing Kane to follow up behind with a backhander that beat Bryzgalov to end the game and the series. Fittingly, the dominating line of Haula-Cooke-Fontaine was on the ice for the goal, as was Brookbank. Hockey can be weird.
This win was definitely the most exciting playoff win against Minnesota since Q has been around, and thus the most memorable. It’d also move the Blackhawks on to a very memorable Western Conference finals series against Los Angeles. As for the numbers not telling the whole story, Crawford wound up facing 35 shots while Bryzgalov handled 27. But Crow was just that much better.
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