I strongly dislike Stephen Walkom. It’s no secret around those I talk most to about the Chicago Blackhawks and hockey in general. And the reason for that dislike was born in this game, the last game in our countdown of top Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville before we get to the big guns.
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Chicago looked like a juggernaut heading into the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and blew past Minnesota in the opening round. But after winning Game 1 of their second-round matchup against Detroit, the Blackhawks went cold. They lost three consecutive games, and it looked like a historical start to the season would be for naught.
But then the Blackhawks won Game 5. And they won Game 6. And that set up a win-or-go-home Game 7 at the United Center. And boy would it be a doozy.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 4: 2013 Western Conference semifinals, Game 7
Chicago Blackhawks 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)
Doc Emrick said early in the broadcast for this gave that Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were paired together for the third consecutive game in this series, noting they hadn’t lost since the two were put back together. It’s an old standby for Q, like putting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together.
The energy at the Madhouse on Madison was palpable and easy to hear through Emrick’s voice all night. Nick Leddy got the first good scoring chance for the Blackhawks just minutes in when he passed the puck to himself off the boards and bum-rushed Jimmy Howard with Toews following up on a rebound chance. But play quickly went the other way, and Corey Crawford was required to make a stop on a Brendan Smith–Cory Emmerton combo play. Justin Abdelkader was turned aside on a stuff attempt on the following faceoff.
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A Keith tripping penalty less than six minutes into the first saw Crawford need to come up with a few more big stops. The Blackhawks, however, would only put Crow at a disadvantage one more time that evening, compared to five minor penalties for the Red Wings. Neither of those stats include the last two penalties of the game, which we’ll get to later.
Later in the period, after Andrew Shaw kind of won a faceoff, Viktor Stalberg won a puck battle and got a couple great chances off that. He could’ve had a shot at a nearly open net at one point, but was hauled down to the ice by Joakim Andersson.
Shaw and Stalberg were part of more scoring bids before the period ended, with Brandon Saad getting in on one by flinging a backhander at Howard while falling between the circles late in the frame.
The Blackhawks finally got something to go into the twine in the second period’s opening minutes, when the long change hurt the Red Wings. It allowed Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa to break in on just Kyle Quincey and Howard, and some tic-tac-toe passing allowed Sharp to snap one past a sprawling Howard from the doorstep to the goaltender’s left, putting Chicago ahead by one.
This is what an unsuccessful long change looks like. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Toews and Kane almost pulled a similar trick several minutes after this, but Kane’s one-timer from a similar area was blocked by defenseman Niklas Kronwall. A Shaw penalty even later in the period saw Crow need to make stops on Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen as the two tried to jam the puck through Crow.
Stalberg and Shaw, however, continued to be puck magnets before this period ended, with Stalberg having great wrist-shot chances snared on both the pad and glove sides by Howard.
And so on to the third period we went. Of course, being a Blackhawks-Red Wings game, this thing wouldn’t just end at 1-0.
Detroit flipped the script from the second period by scoring early in the third. Johnny Oduya got caught by Dan Cleary going the wrong way, as Cleary chipped the puck past Oduya to Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist then found Henrik Zetterberg unattended cross-ice, and Crawford didn’t even have a chance to move before Zetterberg had slammed the puck into the twine.
With “Detroit Sucks!” echoing throughout the building, the teams then engaged in wild back-and-forth play through the rest of the third. At least until the two-minute mark passed.
Saad won a battle for the puck and was sent to the boards in front of Detroit’s bench by Quincey. There, the two tangled as play continued. Shaw took off a toss into the offensive zone by Saad, then threw it back to the trailing and uncovered Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Swede wound up and blew a shot high over Howard’s left shoulder, and the United Center erupted.
Then, Stephen Walkom stepped in.
Walkom waved off the goal because he claimed he had intended to call offsetting penalties on Saad and Quincey for roughing each other. Despite the fact Walkom never raised his hand to indicate a penalty and despite the fact Saad was receiving a penalty for having his face smashed in by Quincey’s glove, the goal was indeed waved off, and the crowd was furious.
That included the crowds watching on TV. I remember I could not stop cursing at the TV for quite some time after the decision to wave off the goal. I was pretty sure the Blackhawks’ run at a Stanley Cup would now be over because some referee had decided to go on a Joe West power trip. Turned out, however, this whole mess would make the game that much more memorable.
It didn’t take long for the Blackhawks to remind us that they were the Blackhawks, the team that nearly always finds a way. Less than four minutes into overtime, Dave Bolland blasted Nyquist into the boards at center ice, freeing the puck up to Seabrook. The playoff-clutch defenseman carried the puck into the offense zone and sent a wrister at Howard that somehow beat the goaltender to end the series and push Chicago to the Western Conference finals.
The tightness of the game. The Blackhawks coming back from down 3-1 in the series. The longtime rivalry between Detroit and Chicago on the ice. The awful call by Walkom. The overtime winner by Seabrook. They all came together to make this one of the most memorable playoff wins in recent Blackhawks history.
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