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Top Chicago Blackhawks Playoff Wins: The Drought Ends

By Colin Likas

We’ve reached the end of this list. After talking about 72 previous Chicago Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville, we’re down to the final entry. If you read the previous two entries on the countdown, you know what this post brings.

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The Blackhawks began their emergence from the dark times with the drafting of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the death of owner Bill Wirtz, and some intelligent personnel decisions both on and off the ice. How quickly the Blackhawks would be able to break a Stanley Cup drought that was inching ever closer to the half-century mark was anyone’s guess.

Turns out, it wouldn’t take long at all.

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

No. 1: 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Game 6

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Philadelphia Flyers 3 (OT)

What’s strange about this game versus the other two Cup-clinching wins under Q is that this one didn’t necessarily have that moment where you stood up, screamed to the sky and knew your team was going to win it all. It more so had a moment where you half stood up, were temporarily confused and then, after a short delay, realized what you’d just witnessed.

There was the 17 seconds against Boston. Duncan Keith‘s goal and Patrick Kane’s late insurance tally against Tampa Bay. But this one. This one goes in the history books with a very different standout moment.

Let’s start at the beginning. With Chris Pronger in the box for holding (an opponent, not the puck after his team lost), Keith blasted a shot off the post behind Michael Leighton midway through the first period.

The corner to Antti Niemi‘s left turned into a battleground in the opening 20, as Scott Hartnell blasted Keith and Jonathan Toews to the ice with big hits seconds apart, after which Brent Seabrook blew the lid off Ville Leino with a hit in the same area a few minutes later. Seabs gave Leino a nice shove to the face immediately after realizing Leino was OK, but possibly trying to draw a penalty.

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Speaking of penalty, Philadelphia was handed another when Pronger again went to the box late in the frame, this time for high-sticking. Tic-tac-toe passing saw Kane feed the puck to Toews down low, and the captain then threw it in front for Dustin Byfuglien, who whacked it past Leighton to lift Chicago to an early edge.

The Flyers turned the act around when Brent Sopel went to the box with less than a minute to play in the first. Daniel Briere and Pronger played catch between the blue line and above the circle to Niemi’s right until Briere blasted a shot on net. The puck landed at the skates of Hartnell, who flicked the puck past Niemi, shoved Keith to the ice afterward and then celebrated tying the game.

Simon Gagne tried to keep the momentum in Philadelphia’s corner when he picked off the puck in the neutral zone and raced toward Niemi on a breakaway less than a minute into the second. But Niemi … said no!

It’s OK if you were a little worried. (Screenshot from YouTube)

The Blackhawks had just killed another penalty a few minutes later when Dave Bolland hit Andrew Ladd with a brilliant pass entering the offensive zone, giving Ladd a semi-breakaway. But he got in too tight on Leighton and had his backhander snuffed out.

Bad luck struck Chicago eight minutes into the frame to give Philadelphia its first lead of the night. Keith hit the deck as his skates came out from under him, giving the Flyers a 2-on-1 with Leino and Briere against Seabrook. Leino hit Briere perfectly on the doorstep to Niemi’s left, and Briere’s one-timer hit the twine to push Philly ahead.

But not for long. About two minutes later, with Braydon Coburn and Marian Hossa both in the box, Keith made a slick pass to Bolland entering the offensive zone, and Bolland made a slick pass of his own to Patrick Sharp, who sniped a shot low and through Leighton to tie the game again. On the TV broadcast, Doc Emrick seemed genuinely surprised Sharp had scored.

Here’s Sharp thanking the hockey gods for getting him out of Philadelphia. (Screenshot from YouTube)

The Blackhawks weren’t going to be satisfied with an intermission tie, though. With less than three minutes to play in the second, Niklas Hjalmarsson secured the puck above the circle to Leighton’s right and let a ripper go on net. As seems to often happen the few times Hjalmarsson shoots in the postseason, the puck found the back of the net, though it needed a Ladd tip this time. Regardless, the Blackhawks scored a crucial late-period goal to take a 3-2 road lead, leaving them 20 game minutes from a Stanley Cup.

Not that Philadelphia would be giving up so easily. While the Flyers were outshot 41-24 in this game, they started putting the pressure on Niemi and Co. in the latter half of the third. Briere, Mike Richards and Claude Giroux were among those with great bids in tight on Niemi.

It would eventually pay off for the Flyers with four minutes to play when Leino deftly skated into the offensive zone and threw the puck to the crease. It eventually found the unassuming stick of Hartnell and ricocheted into the net while Hartnell was colliding with Toews, sending the deep goal horn off again and tying the game once more.

Overtime wasn’t assured until Niemi made a sweet save on Jeff Carter with about 1:30 to go in regulation. Carter had snuck around the backside of the net and popped out on the doorstep opposite where Niemi was looking. Thankfully for the Blackhawks, Carter needed time to settle the puck, and Niemi was able to fly over and stay tall enough to knock down Carter’s eventual chance.

The Blackhawks almost immediately gave away the game in the opening seconds of overtime after Keith and Seabrook had a breakdown at their own blue line. Richards and Giroux both wound up with chances, but Niemi stood strong.

And then, the play we all remember. Hell, who could forget it? It created probably the strangest Cup-winning goal we might ever seen, and the most awkward celebration of a 49-year championship drought put to bed.

With about four minutes gone in OT, Coburn tried to clear the puck off the boards but had it held in by Brian Campbell. Soupy hit Kane with a pass at the halfboards, after which Kane danced a bit and headed down below the circle. As he was nearly even with the goal line, Kane threw the puck hard and low at Leighton. And then, to quote Emrcik, “WHAT CHAOS.”

Only Kane and Sharp knew it initially, but the puck had beaten Leighton and gotten stuck under some of the padding in the net. It led to no one except those two Blackhawks celebrating and Emrick confusedly trying to call the action.

It was all a blur. (Screenshot from YouTube)

After a short delay, the Blackhawks began celebrating in earnest surrounded by a huge crowd of confused Flyers fans. But Chicago had a Cup once again. Hossa won his first in his third consecutive Final. Toews, Kane and the rest of the core were just getting started with this win.

So how could it not be the most memorable?

Previous entries

No. 2 | No. 3 | No. 4 | No. 5 | No. 6 | No. 7 | No. 8 | No. 9 | No. 10 | No. 11 | No. 12 | No. 13 | No. 14 | No. 15 | No. 16 | 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: NHL Power Rankings: Week No. 1

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