Now we’re getting to the good stuff. The remaining entries on the list of most memorable Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville are the cream of the crop, the ones you pull up video of online and watch on loop after the Blackhawks lose a game or because you simply enjoy reliving the Blackhawks’ past successes.
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You know who doesn’t enjoy the Blackhawks’ recent past? Roberto Luongo. The former Vancouver Canucks goaltender was despised by Blackhawks fans during the rivalry between Chicago and Vancouver, and he may still be despised by some today. Bobby Lu wasn’t at the forefront of our thoughts during this next entry on our countdown, until he had to make a surprise appearance. It made this game all the more memorable.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 9: 2011 Western Conference first round, Game 6
Chicago Blackhawks 4, Vancouver Canucks 3 (OT)
For the third consecutive game, the Blackhawks were attempting to fend off postseason elimination at the hands of the Canucks, a team they knocked out of the 2009 and 2010 playoffs. With Luongo struggling mightily in Games 4 and 5 of this series, during which Chicago scored 12 goals, youngster Cory Schneider got the call to start Game 6 at the United Center.
Things started off well for Vancouver here, as the Sedin brothers worked some of their magic to create a goal less than three minutes in. Henrik Sedin threw the puck around the end boards to Daniel Sedin, who collected it, carried it out on front of Corey Crawford and threw the puck off the goaltender and into the net. It was a weird, soft goal, and it had the Canucks right where they wanted to be early.
Vancouver almost gave the goal back later in the period when Sami Salo missed a clearing attempt by the Blackhawks at the end of a penalty kill. Patrick Kane was in the box, and he broke out right as the puck got by Salo, giving Kane a breakaway bid. He got in too tight on Schneider, however, and was turned aside.
But the Blackhawks would get on the board before the horn sounded after Schneider tried to play a puck behind his net to Dan Hamhuis. Unbeknownst to the defenseman, Dave Bolland was streaking down the ice and making a beeline for Hamhuis. Bolland leveled Hamhuis with a huge hit, allowing the puck to squirt to a trailing Bryan Bickell right in front of Schneider. Bickell slapped the puck into the net, sending the UC into a frenzy.
Da Windy City
Bolland’s hit was probably the most memorable moment of this game until things played out further.
The first period wouldn’t end on such a high note, though, after Chris Campoli (that guy) shanked a clearing attempt right between the circles in front of Crawford. Alexandre Burrows picked up the loose puck and fired it past Crow, lifting the Canucks to a 2-1 edge late in the first.
Burrows then hit the post on a powerplay shot midway through the second that would have put the Canucks in the driver’s seat. As it was, the Blackhawks wound up with a 5-on-3 powerplay a short time later when both Raffi Torres and Mason Raymond got the gate. Though the Blackhawks had a ton of chances, Schneider was up to the task and shut them all down.
But Schneider’s puck-playing struggles would haunt him again late in the middle period, with Viktor Stalberg and Kane chasing a dump in while Schneider went behind his crease to collect it. The puck bounced to Kane, who sent it to Bolland flying into the zone for what basically amounted to an empty-net chance, tying the game again.
(Editor’s note: I would put a picture here, but I’m having some trouble getting them to upload. Sorry about that.)
Again, the good feelings wouldn’t last long. Raymond and Kevin Bieksa challenged the Blackhawks while both teams had four skaters. Raymond slapped a shot on net, and Bieksa followed up the rebound just ahead of Jonathan Toews, poking it past Crawford to give the Canucks another lead less than a minute into the third.
This time, the Blackhawks responded quickly. But it took a bit of work and fan sweating to get there.
Michael Frolik accepted a stretch pass from Duncan Keith and broke in on Schneider before being hauled down by Hamhuis. Since the defenseman didn’t touch the puck first in his efforts to break up the play, Frolik was awarded a penalty shot.
Frolik skated straight in on his opportunity, then went forehand-backhand-forehand very quickly just feet from Schneider, eventually firing the puck past Schneider stick side. While the game was tied, the play wasn’t over.
Schneider immediately went down in his net after permitting the goal and was unable to get up. He was suffering from a groin pull as a result of trying to track Frolik, which meant … it was Bobby Lu time.
Chris Higgins tried to put the game away in the late stages of the third but rang a shot off one of the posts behind Crawford. Overtime would be required, however.
A nice Patrick Sharp-to-Kane-to-Toews tic-tac-toe bid was turned aside by Luongo early in the overtime, as Toews got in just a little too tight and was blocked off by the tall-standing Lu.
Campoli created more problems for the Blackhawks a short time later by failing to hold in the puck, leading to a Vancouver 2-on-1. Maxim Lapierre kept the puck the whole way and fired a shot on Crawford, but that was snuffed out.
When it looked like the teams might need a second overtime to decide this game, some magic happened. Marian Hossa showed why he is one of the most dominant possession forwards in the league by carrying the puck from the sideboards and through two attacking Canucks to the area above the circles. He then dished it back to Niklas Hjalmarsson at the blue line, and the defensive defenseman wound up for a big shot at Luongo. The goaltender didn’t get a great look at it but made a save with his pad while falling on his stomach. Fortunately for Chicago, a then-little-known Ben Smith was parked in front of the crease, and he smacked the rebound over the sprawling Luongo to end this wild affair.
So much went in to making this game among the most memorable in recent Blackhawks history. The fact it was a Game 6 after the Blackhawks had gone down 3-0 in the series. The Bolland hit on Hamhuis. Bobby Lu’s sudden return to net after a shaky couple of games. The continuing of Smith’s coming-out party in Chicago. And, on top of it all, a forced Game 7 in defense of the Stanley Cup.
Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty memorable.
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