We’re pretty far along on the countdown of most memorable Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville, so it might surprise you to learn there are two more games on the list from series the Blackhawks wound up losing. So they had to be pretty memorable to wind up this far into the countdown.
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One of those games will be covered in the future, and the other today. The Blackhawks’ shortest playoff run under Coach Q came in 2012, when a still-reloading Chicago squad faced off against a strange Phoenix Coyotes squad. The Blackhawks probably could’ve won that series in six games, or maybe fewer. Instead, they lost it in six. How did that happen? Because of the one person who also made this next game memorable for years to come, at least in my view.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 17: 2012 Western Conference first round, Game 2
Chicago Blackhawks 4, Phoenix Coyotes 3 (OT)
Unfortunately, the highlight video from this game is really short. But that doesn’t mean we can’t spend some time talking about what made this game memorable. It sure as heck wasn’t the people scoring the goals.
What…? (Screenshot from YouTube)
Yes, a game in which Brandon Bollig and Raffi Torres scored is in the top quarter of this list. Six of the seven goals in this game were potted by guys who have now played for the Blackhawks at one point or another, so that’s interesting. Of course, Patrick Sharp‘s very late goal spikes the intrigue, as does an overtime win on the road.
But we’re missing something …
Mar 12, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes goalieMike Smith
(41) adjust his pads after a scuffle with Chicago Blackhawks players in the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
It’s that guy, Mike Smith. The most overpaid, underwhelming goaltender in the NHL today. The guy who stole this series with a ridiculous .950 save percentage, and who created quite a scene in this game alone.
But let’s start at the outset. With Antoine Vermette in the penalty box just 1:08 into the game, Dave Bolland won an offensive zone draw as Chicago’s first powerplay drew to a close. He eventually got the puck back above the circle to Smith’s right and fired a shot on net, which Smith stopped. But a rebound popped into the air, and Bryan Bickell was on the doorstep to tap it home for an early Blackhawks edge.
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Phoenix followed this up almost six minutes later with a strike of its own after Shane Doan won a race with Duncan Keith to the puck down low, dishing it out to Torres between the circles. Torres beat Corey Crawford with a chance Pierre McGuire could convert on, and the game was tied. Then, on a powerplay five minutes later, Keith Yandle let a shot go from the blue line and had it deflected into the net by Vermette to push the Coyotes ahead by one.
So naturally, as weird as this game was, Bollig would get in on the action for his first NHL goal. Nick Leddy won possession of the puck near Crawford and fired a stretch pass to Bollig. The gritty forward simply whipped a shot on goal from not far inside the blue line, and Smith was caught unaware, tying the game at two.
Yes, Tazer. We’re confused too. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Now, on to the theatrics.
If you watched this without watching anything else related to hockey, you would think Smith was shot with a crossbow right in the throat. He fell to the ice and writhed in pain as though he was Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. (For those who don’t know, Harvey Dent had half his face catch on fire; Smith suffered a bump to the head). Smith was going behind the net to play the puck, as he often does, and Shaw was trying to squeeze between Smith and the boards. The two wound up hitting heads, after which Shaw threw his hands in the air and pretty much no one went after Shaw, probably because it looked like an accident.
Smith lay on the ice for a long time, hardly moving, and was eventually brought to a sitting position. The backup goaltender was suiting up at this point to relieve Smith, who was clearly concussed or hurt in some other way.
So then, Shaw is given 15 minutes worth of penalties and tossed from the game. And, wait for it …
Even Wile-E Coyote thinks this is crap. (Screenshot from YouTube)
He’s totally fine and staying in the game. So the referees waited until Smith had proven to them that his acting chops were up to snuff, then ejected Shaw. And then Smith decided he could keep playing. Pathetic.
What makes this even more memorable in hindsight is what happened in the very next game. Torres attempted to behead Marian Hossa, and while Hossa was being stretchered off the ice, absolutely nothing of consequence happened to Torres. In fact, Bollig was given several penalty minutes for sticking up for his teammate after that highly illegal hit.
Bravo, NHL, for that double standard. If Smith’s antics don’t make your blood boil, you need to keep watching until they do. But, hey, we got a pretty memorable game out his Academy-Award-worthy performance, so there’s that.
Vermette would convert on Phoenix’s five-minute powerplay as a result of Shaw’s “charge,” giving the Coyotes a 3-2 lead they would totally blow.
Thankfully for us, it happened with less than 10 seconds left in regulation. With Crawford at the bench for an extra attacker, the Blackhawks threw all they had at Smith for more than a minute. A Brent Seabrook shot from just inside the blue line hit a ton of traffic in front and wound up deflecting off Sharp and into the net, causing Smith to throw a massive hissy fit and tying the game with less than seven seconds remaining.
Phoenix might’ve been worn down by Chicago’s constant offensive barrage by the time the midway point of overtime rolled around, as they got very lazy with a possession in their own zone. Oliver Ekman-Larsson tried to clear the puck around the end boards, but it wound up right on the stick of Bickell between the circles. He fired a low shot through Smith, bringing this ridiculous contest to a close and splitting the first two games in Phoenix.
Not much else good happened for the Blackhawks after this win, but it’s definitely memorable for giving us a bona fide reason to loathe Mike Smith. It’s also given us a reason to laugh at him today, since he can’t even come close to justifying his current contract. Maybe acting is in his future.
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