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Top Chicago Blackhawks Playoff Wins: Setting The Tone

By Colin Likas
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The Chicago Blackhawks have played quite a bit of hockey since the first Stanley Cup win in the team’s ongoing era. Following the Game 6 win against Philadelphia on the road, the team has been involved in 454 regular-season and playoff games. So sometimes it can be difficult to remember games from before that time.

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And then there was the opening contest between the Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 championship series. It’d be pretty tough to forget that one for a key reason: It was just short of insane. And that’s why it’s next on our countdown of most memorable playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.

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

No. 16: 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks 6, Philadelphia Flyers 5

The winning team in five of this series’ six games scored four or more goals. These two teams managed that total in less than 17 minutes of game action in the opener at the United Center.

Things got started on the wrong foot for the hosts when Ville Leino fired a shot at Antti Niemi from along the boards above the circle to Niemi’s left. The puck bounced off Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was battling with Scott Hartnell in front, and flew into the net for a Flyers advantage about 6:30 into the contest.

Not much time was needed for the Blackhawks to tie things up, as Marian Hossa won a board battle behind Michael Leighton. The Flyers did a pretty rotten job of trying to force Hossa off the puck (would they have been successful if they tried?), and he wound up feeding it to Troy Brouwer above the circles. Brouwer’s one-timer beat Leighton stick side barely a minute after Leino’s goal.

A little surprising that both teams got on the board so quickly, but nothing too crazy yet. Thankfully, there was plenty of that in store.

The Blackhawks committed all four penalties in this game, with three of them occurring in the first 20 minutes. With Patrick Kane in the penalty box for slashing, the Blackhawks were attempting to keep Philadelphia off the board. As we’ve seen quite a bit in recent Blackhawks playoff history, teams seem to get a little complacent at their blue line trying to set up a powerplay attack. That would come into play here.

Braydon Coburn couldn’t decide what to do with a pass at the blue line, and Dave Bolland came flying into the picture and stole the puck. He streaked down the ice and essentially shot the puck through Leighton from just below the circles, pushing Chicago to a lead about 12 minutes into the game. The tally elicited the most typical Bolland reaction.

You people are all very loud. (Screenshot from YouTube)

Amazingly, only one more special-teams goal would be scored in this game, and it came less than five minutes after Bolland’s marker. With Brian Campbell off the ice for high-sticking, Chris Pronger blasted a puck off one of the posts behind Niemi. The big defenseman eventually got the puck back and fired it into traffic, with Hartnell tucking it home on the second chance to tie the contest once more.

We all know the danger of early-period and late-period goals, and this game had a few of the latter (and one of the former). Danny Briere created a problem for the Blackhawks when he took a pass from Hartnell above the circles after a Chicago turnover in its defensive zone. Briere attempted a slapshot that was knocked down in front, but he followed the puck and got off another shot from the circle to Niemi’s left. It beat an out-of-position Niemi, and the Flyers had stunned the UC crowd by taking a 3-2 lead with 27 seconds left in the period.

So, after a Western Conference finals sweep against San Jose and Niemi general success in these playoffs, it seemed as though it was all due to come crashing down on the biggest stage. But the Blackhawks weren’t about to let their goaltender down after all the times he’d saved them.

Philadelphia opened the second period with a scoring chance that was turned aside by Niemi, and the Blackhawks quickly responded. Brouwer sent a board-banging pass from the defensive zone to Patrick Sharp streaking up the opposite side. Sharp showed amazing speed in getting right on top of Leighton, and he fired a shot high over Leighton’s left shoulder to create another tie, this one 1:11 into the middle frame.

Briere and Hartnell tried to combine for a sweet feed from behind the net to the doorstep a few minutes later, but Niemi shut it off. But he couldn’t shut off a bid from Blair Betts, of all people. Aaron Asham won a board battle, and the puck skipped out to Betts, who wired a shot off and under the crossbar to push Philadelphia ahead once more, about six minutes after the latest tie. It was Betts’ first and only goal of the playoffs, and actually his only point of the series. Known as a grinder, that’s totally unsurprising.

What may have been surprising was the scoring in this period wasn’t even halfway finished.

Tomas Kopecky carried the puck in deep about two minutes after Betts’ goal and circled behind the net. He threw the puck back in front for Kris Versteeg, who got between all of Philadelphia’s defenders and beat an unaware Leighton to again tie the game. Then, Niemi had to make a big save on Ian Lapierriere after getting way out of his crease in an effort to cut down a breakaway chance that never really materialized for the Flyers.

That’s not where the net is … (Screenshot from YouTube)

The Blackhawks, as they often do, flipped play in a big way. About a minute after the above image, Hossa had the puck behind Leighton and took a big check. He managed to send the puck up the boards to Niklas Hjalmarsson, who threw it back to Hossa underneath. Hossa snuck a backhanded pass to Brouwer coming through traffic at the circles, and the winger tallied his second goal of the night to give the Blackhawks their first lead since 1-0.

After this, Leighton would be pulled in what would be the beginning of goaltender roulette for Peter Laviolette and Co. Brian Boucher would come in for relief and wound up with two decisions in this series, including one in this game.

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  • Which meant this lead, like all of the others up to this point, wouldn’t last. An absolute mess of a play for the Flyers about 3:30 after Brouwer’s second goal saw Briere end up with the puck at the faceoff circle to Niemi’s left. He fired a perfect pass to Asham in the slot, and another player known more for grit than scoring one-timed the puck past Niemi to create yet another tie. This one would at least last through the rest of the period.

    You could be forgiven for having developed some sort of heart condition by this point in the game. And there was still at least one more period! How out of control would these 20 minutes be?

    Turns out, not very, at least by scoresheet standards.

    Versteeg and Bolland almost connected for a tally in the first 20 seconds of the frame, but Boucher stood (or leaned) tall. It was only fitting that a far more strange play got the Blackhawks in front for good.

    Brent Seabrook showed his early-career playoff clutchness by keeping a puck in the offensive zone while falling down with about 11:30 to go in the game. Bolland chipped it deeper into the zone for Versteeg, who immediately fired a centering pass to Kopecky cross-ice.

    Now, Kopecky isn’t exactly known to be a goal scorer, so it wasn’t surprising he didn’t one-time it past Boucher. Instead, he held on to it and got Boucher out of position, then tapped the puck into an empty net before banging furiously on the glass in celebration.

    I see you in there! (Screenshot from YouTube)

    This would be the goal to give the Blackhawks the win, though the game was far from over when it was scored. Niemi would have to come up with some big saves on Simon Gagne and Briere, and when Pronger’s last-moment shot was turned aside as well, fans at the United Center gleefully tossed their promotional towels into the air and on the ice. The Blackhawks were three wins from their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

    And it only took six goals to do it. What else is new?

    Previous entries

    No. 17 | No. 18 | No. 19 | No. 20 | No. 21 | No. 22 | No. 23 | No. 24 | No. 25 | No. 26 | No. 27 | No. 28 | No. 29 | No. 30 | No. 31 | No. 32 | No. 33 | No. 34 | No. 35 | No. 36 | No. 37 | No. 38 | No. 39 | No. 40 | No. 41 | No. 42 | No. 43 | No. 44 | No. 45 | No. 46 | No. 47 | No. 48 | 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

    Next: Chicago Blackhawks Flashback: Anything's Possible

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