No. 1: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings, 2014
Yes, No. 1 on this list is a series the Blackhawks lost. And you could probably argue the Ducks series was a better entry, as pretty much each game had something worth remembering. This Kings series is mostly remembered for the final three games being absolutely insane. But, man, those last three games …
This was kind of the series we thought we’d get back in 2013. It was, by some measures, the true Stanley Cup Final. Neither the New York Rangers nor the Montreal Canadiens were going to stand up to either of these teams in the Final (L.A. beat the Rangers in five games). It just took a little time for that sentiment to really shine through.
Things started off well enough for the Blackhawks, who won Game 1 3-1 and saddled Jonathan Quick with a .850 save percentage. But the Kings would turn the tables in a major way, winning the next three contests with a pair of blowouts (6-2 in Game 2 and 5-2 in Game 4) sandwiching a 4-3 result that only got there because Sharp scored with 5 seconds left in regulation.
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It looked like the Kings were back with a vengeance after their quick dismissal in 2013. Maybe the Blackhawks were just tired after a Cup run the season before. Or, maybe, they were just late to the party this year.
Seabrook and Johnny Oduya tallied within the first four minutes of Game 5. Jarret Stoll then found twine for L.A., before Brandon Saad did for Chicago. Marian Gaborik then did the same for the Kings, leaving the crowd exhausted and seeing a 3-2 Blackhawks lead after one. The Kings would net the next two goals before Ben Smith found the net early in the third period. Extra time was, of course, required.
In the second overtime, Saad capped a strong game (one goal, two assists) with his second helper of the night. He corralled a puck in the neutral zone and found Michal Handzus “streaking” to the net. Handzus roofed a backhander over Quick to thrill the crowd and set up Game 6 in California.
And what a Game 6 it would be. This game is certainly most remembered for what happened at the end of the second period, but we have to get there first. The Kings opened the scoring with a Dwight King goal late in the first period. But the Blackhawks responded with a goal from Kane and a shot from Smith from behind the Kings net that banked off Quick and in. So the Blackhawks went to the locker room with a 2-1 edge.
However, before they could actually get to the locker room, this happened:
Quick, a notorious hot head, was upset over Shaw being pushed into him as the horn sounded. So Crow decided to play some mind games, leading to the headbutt heard ’round the world (before Shaw’s the next year).
The Kings seemed fired up by this, as they tallied twice in the first eight minutes of the third period to take a 3-2 edge. But the Blackhawks weren’t done thrilling us, as the Saad-Kane tandem was quick to show. With less than nine minutes to play, Saad entered the offensive zone and found Kane, who dropped a nifty pass to a pinching Keith. The defenseman wound up between the circles and fired a shot past Quick to tie the game at 3.
Then, with less than four minutes to go, Saad again entered the zone with the puck and found Kane. This time, Kane did some Harlem Globetrotter-like action and held the puck for what felt like an eternity before snapping it home from well above the circles. And just like that, we had a Game 7.
And what a Game 7 it was. These two teams were likely well aware of what was at stake. It wasn’t just a trip to the Cup Final: It was a trip to the Cup Final with the knowledge that no Eastern Conference team was going to beat you. So these teams put on a show at the Madhouse on Madison.
It might ultimately be remembered for the deflection that got Leddy shipped out of town (I jest), but we can’t forget the five goals scored in this first period. The Blackhawks built a 2-0 lead, only to see it disappear in less than a minute’s ice time, and then only to see Sharp find the net before the period ended.
The teams traded goals in the second period and Gaborik found the net midway through the third to force an overtime for all the marbles. Unfortunately, Alec Martinez‘s point shot hit Leddy and beat Crow to end the series in favor of L.A. But there’s no doubt it my mind this is the most-memorable and best conference finals series the Blackhawks have been involved in under Coach Q.