#1 – 2009 Western Conference Semifinal vs. Vancouver (Game 6)
After winning Game 5 on the road, the Blackhawks returned home to the United Center with a chance to eliminate the Canucks and advance to their first conference final since 1995. As a fan, it almost didn’t seem real that these upstart Hawks had a chance to make it that far in the playoffs. But the result of this game would be a sign of things for years to come.
The Hawks opened the game with a rush, inspired by the electric UC crowd. Luongo made some big saves early on Bolland and Havlat. The Canucks survived the Hawks’ quick start, and Mason Raymond opened up the scoring with a wrist shot that beat Khabibulin at the 11:13 mark. The Hawks quickly responded with a Kane goal on the rush just two minutes later.
The Hawks would open up the second period with two power-play goals by Versteeg and Toews to take a 3-1 lead. Vancouver would quickly respond with a Daniel Sedin goal to make it 3-2, and a Shane O’Brien snipe to tie the game after a lost board battle. The back and forth game went to the third period tied 3-3, the fun was just beginning.
Mats Sundin gave the Canucks the lead on the power play early in the third. As they did throughout the game, the Hawks quickly responded with a Sharp steal and an Adam Burish goal to tie the game two minutes later. With less than eight minutes to play, Vancouver surged ahead again with Danial Sedin’s second goal of the game. The stage was then set for Patrick Kane. 47 seconds later, Kane stole the puck behind the net and scored on a wraparound to tie the game 5-5. Less than a minute later, the Hawks found themselves on the power play, and Toews threw a puck at the net that found its way past Luongo to suddenly give the Hawks a 6-5 lead. Then, minutes later Patrick Kane stole the puck in the neutral zone, danced through the Vancouver defense, and slotted a nifty backhander past Luongo for his first career playoff hat trick, giving the Hawks a 7-5 lead. The Hawks would hold on for the next three minutes to win the series, and advance to the West Finals to play Detroit.
The 2009 Hawks ultimately lost to the powerhouse Red Wings in five games, but their gutty Game 6 win over Vancouver showed the league what was coming for the foreseeable future. The Hawks getting major contributions from stars like Kane and Toews, and showing their resiliency that would be their trademark going forward. I feel like this game gets lost in the shuffle of our memories, probably because it seems so long ago. But it was an incredible hockey game that proved the Blackhawks were back on the map in the hockey world.
#2 – 2010 Stanley Cup Final vs. Philadelphia (Game 5)
After taking a 2-0 series lead to Philly, the Hawks lost two straight games as the Flyers took back the momentum in the series. The Stanley Cup Final was tied 2-2 and back in Chicago for Game 5. Another charged crowd bolstered the Hawks to a quick start. The Hawks were on fire early on, and finally broke through on Seabrook’s power-play goal at the 12:15 mark. Three minutes later, on a delayed penalty, the puck took a wicked bounce off the end boards and Dave Bolland banked it off Leighton’s pad to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. Then, right before the period ended, Versteeg floated to the slot and fired a wrist shot to stunningly make it 3-0. For subsequent years to come, our Hawks watch party would frequently say “we need a Philly Game 5 type of period here.” Still the best period I’ve seen a Hawks team play in the last eight years.
The game got wacky in the second period as the Flyers surged back with Hartnell making it 3-1 just 31 seconds in. The Hawks would respond a few minutes later when Ladd made one of the sweetest passes ever to Kane who didn’t miss, 4-1. A few minutes after that, Kimmo Timonen (Yes, that guy) scored from the top of the circle to cut the lead back to two again.
At the 6:14 mark Dustin Byfuglien absolutely crushes Chris Pronger in the corner.
Niemi would follow that up by robbing Mike Richards on the power play with a spectacular save to keep it a two-goal deficit. Late in the period the Hawks were buzzing, and Big Buff added to the lead, finishing off a slick passing play by the Hawks power play to make it 5-2.
In the third, more of the same back and forth action. Van Riemsdyk (Not Trevor) would make it 5-3 midway through the period. With the Flyers threatening, Patrick Sharp broke the tension in the building with a snipe under the crossbar to make it 6-3. The Flyers wouldn’t freaking go away in this one, as Gagne made it 6-4 seconds later. But Byfuglien sealed it for the Hawks with an empty netter to give Chicago the 7-4 win and a 3-2 series lead heading back to Philly.
In Philly the Hawks would win Game 6 in overtime, giving Chicago its first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years. Game 5, however, was thrilling to me because of the incredible first period, and the back and forth nature of the game. Looking back, the Hawks were in control the whole time, but I felt like I couldn’t breathe the entire game.
#3 – 2014 Western Conference Quarterfinal vs. St. Louis (Game 2)
Yes, I know the Hawks lost this game, but it’s still one of the most underrated Hawks playoff games ever. Not necessarily because of the result, but because of what the game signified. The Hawks were down 1-0 in their opening round series against the Blues after losing Game 1 in triple overtime. Game 2 fell on the Saturday of Easter weekend, and we were hosting our family’s Easter party on that Saturday. We had a lot of people over watching the afternoon game. (Our family on my Mom’s side traditionally celebrates Easter on “sacrilegious Saturday” so each respective family can have Easter Sunday to themselves, and yeah… this hockey game fittingly got pretty sacrilegious).
Anyways, I digress. The Hawks started slowly in this one to say the least. The Blues opened the scoring with a Chris Porter goal seven minutes in after a blocked shot fell right on his stick. In the waning seconds of the first, Crawford made an unreal save on Schwartz and the puck was centered back to the blue line. Corey couldn’t find his net and Kevin Shattenkirk scored with a shot from the point with just 0.8 seconds left to make it 2-0 Blues. Agonizing.
The second period was pretty blah both ways. But the Hawks came alive and got back in the game with a Keith shot from the point to make it 2-1 with two minutes left in the period (I’ll refrain from any resurrection jokes here).
The Hawks tied the game 2-2 early in the third when Brent Seabrook hammered a slap shot from the far half boards that somehow beat Miller. Minutes later, a Roszival shot from the point deflected off a Blues player and past Miller to suddenly give the Hawks a 3-2 lead. The next 15 minutes of the third felt like they took hours. The game, and the series, would shift completely with just under five minutes to play…
While the Hawks were shorthanded, Seabrook absolutely railroaded Blues captain David Backed with a high hit in the corner. Hawks and Blues players immediately came together to scrap as Backes lay motionless on the ice. Backes got up, clearly dazed and barely able to stand on his skates. He left the game, and Seabrook was given a game misconduct and ejected. The Hawks would suddenly be shorthanded for the rest of regulation. You can be the judge on Seabrook’s hit… dirty? Yeah. In the moment I was fired up, but since then I’ve come to admit that it was pretty borderline. (Random thought: this game had a million penalties, even before the Seabrook hit).
In heartbreaking fashion, the Blues would tie the game 3-3 on a Tarasenko goal through traffic with only six seconds remaining in regulation. Crawford and the Hawks were crushed, so close to victory and now heading to OT. That is what’s infuriating to me about this game, the two VERY late goals given up by the Hawks ended up being the difference.
The ensuing overtime would be brief as Barrett Jackman’s shot squeaked through Crawford and trickled in to give the Blues the 4-3 win and 2-0 series lead heading to Chicago.
The Hawks would go on to win four straight to take the series in six games. So ultimately the Game 2 loss didn’t matter a whole lot. I think for me the significance of this game is bigger than just that one game. I think that April 19, 2014 Game 2 re-instilled the hatred in the Blackhawks-Blues rivalry. The rivalry had been pretty dormant since the early 90’s. But with Detroit going to the East, the Blues now took center stage as the Hawks’ most hated foe, and vice versa.
#4 – 2015 Western Conference Finals vs. Anaheim (Game 4)
The Hawks were in their third straight trip to the Western Conference Finals, this time facing the Anaheim Ducks. The Hawks were down 2-1 in the series after a 2-1 loss at home in Game 3. This game was a virtual must-win game for the Blackhawks to avoid going back to California down 3-1. Surviving this game would prove pivotal for the Hawks’ run to the Cup in 2015.
The two goalies stood tall early in this one, with the game’s first goal not coming until late in the first. Brandon Saad broke away shorthanded after a Duck player got tangled with the referee. Saad didn’t miss and the Hawks took a 1-0 lead. That lead would hold for about twenty minutes until the Ducks finally broke through to tie the game 1-1 after controlling most of the second period.
In the third period things got crazy. Toews gave the Hawks the lead again with a patient goal off of a nifty pass from Marian Hossa. Minutes later Seabrook made it 3-1 Hawks with a slap shot from the right circle. With a two goal lead our watch party sat back a little to catch our collective breath (never a good idea). The next 37 seconds were pure hell. Kesler scored to make it 3-2, seconds later Beleskey capitalized on a Hawks turnover to tie it 3-3, and then another brutal Hawks turnover led to Perry scoring to make it 4-3. Three goals by the Ducks in 37 seconds… The Hawks were stunned, the UC crowd was stunned, and yeah, we were all stunned. It was surreal. It all happened so fast we barely had time to react or be angry. A few minutes later the Blackhawks had a power play, and Brad Richards made a nice feed to Kane who slipped it by Andersen to tie it 4-4. Chaos.
The Ducks controlled the rest of the period, coming at the Hawks in waves. Cory Crawford stood on his head, keeping the game tied until the end of regulation. In the first overtime Crawford had to make more brilliant saves as the Ducks continued to press. The Hawks grabbed some momentum late in the first overtime, but were unable to convert. Shaw and Toews hit the post from point-blank range, and Sharp was stoned by Andersen on a breakaway. Back and forth they went, no time to breathe.
In the second OT, the Hawks got on the forecheck and had sustained possession in the Anaheim zone. Patrick Sharp dug the puck out of the corner and made a nice spin move behind the net to elude a defender. His backhand pass into the slot when through the legs of two Ducks and right onto the stick of Antoine Vermette, a healthy scratch in Game 3. Vermette’s initial shot was incredibly blocked by a diving Richard Rakell. Vermette had the poise to gather the bouncing puck off the block, and scored the game winning goal from an incredible angle to tie the series 2-2.
Blouses. The Hawks somehow survived one of the craziest hockey games I’ve ever seen. The resiliency to come back after giving up THREE goals in less than a minute… Just says everything about the score of that team. The Hawks would lose Game 5 in Anaheim, but win the next two, including a road Game 7, to win the series and advance the Stanley Cup Final. In the Final, the Hawks defeated Tampa in six to win their third Cup in six years.