Chicago Blackhawks’ What If … They Lost Game 1 Against Boston In 2013

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23: Zdeno Chara
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23: Zdeno Chara /

One of the most exciting games in Chicago Blackhawks postseason history occurred on June 12, 2013, and it ended with Chelsea Dagger blaring. But what if the opposite had happened?

Between roughly 7 p.m. and midnight on June 12/13 of 2013, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins engaged in an incredible Stanley Cup Final-opening affair at the United Center. And the Blackhawks came out on top.

My friend Andrew and I were in attendance at this Game 1, sitting five rows from the top. We were directly behind the goal Corey Crawford would stand in as his team capped a triple-overtime victory against the Bruins to go up 1-0 in the championship series.

It was an exhausting game that saw the Blackhawks overcome 2-0 and 3-1 deficits, the latter in the third period entirely. It also saw the Bruins control large stretches of overtime and miss such close attempts as a Zdeno Chara goalpost blast and a Kaspars Daugavins rebound bid that not only slipped past Crow, but also past the net.

In the end, Andrew Shaw planted himself right in front of Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask as defenseman Michal Rozsival (really) wound up from the point. Rozsival’s blast first hit Dave Bolland halfway between the blue line and net before caroming off on of Shaw’s legs and past Rask to cap a 4-3 triumph.

After that win, the Blackhawks … didn’t exactly take advantage of their major momentum boost. They lost the next two games, including one at the UC. But they’d win the next three, including the “17 seconds” thriller in Game 6 at TD Garden, to hoist the silver chalice once more.

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So … what might have happened had the Blackhawks lost that opener in Chicago?

It easily could have happened

You’ll recall the close chances I mentioned the Bruins having in the overtime periods. Unlike many of my other “what if” posts, this is a situation that easily could have played out opposite of how it really did.

The Blackhawks put up a spirited effort to even tie the game. When overtime rolled around, however, the Bruins had a decisive edge throughout. That’s not to say the Blackhawks couldn’t have taken advantage of a big chance before their actual winner, but the Bruins easily could’ve made this “what if” scenario a reality.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the series would have turned. Despite the Bruins winning Games 2 and 3, it’s not as though they were bloodbaths. Boston won Game 2 in overtime on a Daniel Paille strike, and they took Game 3 2-0 on a pair of second-period markers.

So this series easily could have been some version of 3-0 or 2-1 in any direction heading to Game 4. And that wouldn’t have even cleared matters, as that was a 6-5 overtime thriller the Blackhawks won (you’ll remember it as the game everyone decided Crow’s glove sucked for eternity).

Game 5 was a 3-1 Blackhawks win that was capped by a Bolland empty-netter, and we all know how Game 6 went down. So this entire series was about as tight as could be. How much would a different result in Game 1 have changed things?

What if the Bruins had won Game 1?

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  • This is one of those situations where it’s just so hard to know what might have been, specifically because of how tight the series was all the way through.

    The Blackhawks could have lost Game 1, certainly. But what if they had tallied first in Game 2’s overtime period? Then maybe Game 3 turns out a little differently as well.

    Then you have an 11-goal outing in Game 4, which easily could have gone either way. That was followed by a Game 5 in which the Bruins were pushing hard until Bolland’s empty-netter. And Game 6 turned on a dime.

    Ultimately, the Blackhawks winning Game 1 was a pretty big deal, especially since they didn’t win the next two games. And I think the Blackhawks very well could have lost the entire series had they not pulled out Game 1.

    Crow was sensational in the net throughout, minus a few rough spots in Game 4, as he posted a ridiculous .960 save percentage for the series. The same should be said for Rask (.935). As such, it was critical for both teams to get that first win.

    Should the Blackhawks have lost the opener, there was a real chance they went down 3-0 no matter how well they played. There’s just as good a chance it could’ve been 2-1 Boston regardless (though Game 3 was close, the Bruins were the better team in it).

    Still, getting that win from the outset versus playing from behind from the start is a big deal in hockey, especially in the championship series. The Blackhawks would have suffered a huge blow to their Cup chances had they lost Game 1.

    As such, that could have changed the entirety of a three-year stretch that saw Chicago dominate the hockey landscape. They were a win away from playing for the Cup again in 2014, and they found their way back to the promised land in 2015. I’m not sure any of that happens without the 2013 victory, forged on the back of a record-setting regular season.

    So while teams don’t always need to take the opening game to win a playoff series, I think it was a must for Chicago in this situation. We can thank a few lucky bounces, some sensational goaltending and dogged team persistence for not only this Game 1 win, but a lot that came after it.