By: Alex Patt
The end of the NHL season is approaching, and for the first time in ten years, Blackhawks fans will not be looking forward to the Stanley Cup playoffs in April. Their chances are all but gone and focus is already turning to the future. With a lost season, sometimes it is good to get nostalgic, even if said nostalgia took place in recent years.
The Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane era is not ending, they will be around for a while still. However, the window of cup contention is right now closed until further notice. Sure moves can re-open it fairly fast, but a long offseason can be telling on how and when that can happen. For right now though, lets reflect on Chicago sports’ most successful run by a single team since the Bulls of the 90s.
Since Rocky Wirtz took over in 2007 after the late Bill Wirtz passed, the once called “WORST franchise in sports” went through a complete renaissance while building around Toews and Kane. By 2009, they went back to the playoffs and went to the conference finals, followed by three Stanley Cups and five total trips to the conference finals. A lot happened from 2009-2017, so here is a look at the ranked best and worst of that era.
Top 10 Countdown
10). The 2013 point-streak
- The 2013 NHL season did not start until January due to the lockout. When it did, the Blackhawks stormed out of the gates. They recorded at least a point in their first 24 games of the season and were easily the number one seed in the west going into the playoffs. It was a historical accomplishment which was just chapter one in arguably the most magical Blackhawks season in history.
9). “I love shin pads!”
- Game one of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals vs. the Boston Bruins went into triple OT. This would not be the first Blackhawks playoff game to go that far…But in this case, the Bruins lost a 3-1 lead late as the Blackhawks forced overtime. At around the 7:52 mark in the third overtime, Michal Rozsival blasted a shot that traveled in the air, hitting off Andrew Shaw and into the net for a game one victory. “I LOVE SHIN PADS!” Shaw yelled when the team celebrated on the ice.
8.) Clinching the West in a game seven win vs. the Ducks
- The Blackhawks trailed the Ducks 3-2 in the 2015 WCF. A game six win at the United Center forced a game seven in Anaheim. Looking to avenge the previous game seven loss in 2014, the Blackhawks came out blazing and quickly went up 2-0 in the first. They built a 4-0 lead by the middle of the second period and ended up winning 5-3. The Honda Center was probably 60% Blackhawks fans that night, so the team got a lot of support from the crowd. They went to their third Stanley Cup final since 2010.
7.) Patrick Kane hat trick vs. the Canucks
- The young 2009 Blackhawks were catching the eye of the hockey world as they played the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the playoffs. The veteran Canucks were the favorites by many in the series, but the Blackhawks prevailed in six. The clinching game at the United Center was one of the most intense games in the Toews-Kane era. A back and forth game which ended in a 7-5 Blackhawks win saw a 20-year old Kane score a hat trick. The Blackhawks were off to the conference final for the first time since 1995 and the United Center was up for grabs.
6.) Patrick Kane hat trick vs. the Kings
- In the 2013 WCF, the Blackhawks took on the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. Up 3-1 in the series, the Blackhawks needed just one more win in game five at the United Center to return to the finals. Kane scored what looked like the game-winner with just under four minutes to go in the third period. However the Kings scored with just seconds left to force overtime. It stayed knotted up at three at 8:20 of the second overtime when Toews and Kane had a two-on-one entering the Kings zone. Toews made a perfect pass to Kane who flicked the puck over Jonathan Quick to score his third goal of the game, and clinch a spot in the finals.
5.) Hossa’s redemption
- The Blackhawks were heavily favored to extinguish the seven-seed Nashville Predators in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. However, Nashville played much better than anticipated. With the series tied 2-2, the Blackhawks wanted to take the series lead in game five at the United Center. It looked grim when the Predators had a 4-3 lead in the final minute, and Marian Hossa in the box for a five-minute major penalty. Kane with 13 seconds left scored a short-handed goal to tie it at 4 and force overtime. Nashville still had a remaining near four minutes left of power play time in overtime. Right as the penalty ended, Hossa stormed out of the box to the front of the net where he got hold of a Brent Sopel blast that rebounded off Pekka Rinne and put it in the back of the net to win it. The United Center went aboslutley nuts. They went on to win game six and the series in Nashville. That win saved the season.
4.) Winning it all in 2015
- The Blackhawks ended a grueling 2015 playoff run with a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lighting in game six of the Stanley Cup Final. For the first time, they got to raise the cup at the United Center. Duncan Keith, the eventual Conn Smythe winner, scored the eventual game-winner near the end of the second period. Patrick Kane scored an insurance goal with 5:14 left in the game, sealing the Lightning’s fate. Corey Crawford recorded the shutout in goal. It was a proud moment for Chicago, considering they sealed what many argued was a dynasty an defeated a Lightning team that many picked to win the series.
3.) Kane’s OT goal to win it all for the first time in half a century
- The 2010 cup victory over the Philadelphia Flyers will always be one of the most important championship victories of the franchise. The last Stanley Cup in Chicago was won in 1961, a 49-year drought. The Blackhawks led the finals series 3-2 and just needing one more win for the cup. Game six took place in Philly, a city the Blackhawks had not won a game in since 1996. Going into the third period, the score itself was 3-2 in favor of Chicago. One more period. The game was then tied by Scott Hartnell with a few minutes left. Overtime. It looked like Philly had the momentum, but Patrick Kane at 15:55 slipped the puck under goaltender Michael Leighton as he began jumping and celebrating while the rest of the arena was confused. The video board showed the puck go in, and the Chicago Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.
2.) Seabrook serves up calamari in overtime
- Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. A long time classic rivalry that was coming to an end in 2013 as the Wings were set to move to the Eastern Conference the following year. Fitting it would all be wrapped up in a playoff series in round two of the 2013 playoffs. The Red Wings had a 3-1 series lead, but the Blackhawks won games five and six to force an epic game seven at the United Center. It was scoreless for the first period until Patrick Sharp scored to make it 1-0 Chicago. However, the Wings tied it in the third period. It looked like Niklas Hjalmarsson had scored the game winner with 1:47 left, but it was waived off on a terrible call by the linesman. Wouldn’t you know it…overtime. Just a few minutes in at 16:26, Brent Seabrook got the puck in the neutral zone and skated in. He wristed the puck towards the net that went past Jimmy Howard’s glove to win the series for the Blackhawks. It may not have been a cup-clincher, but it was significant in the team’s history.
And now…the best moment of the Toews-Kane era…
1.) 17 seconds to glory
- The ending of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final was one out of a Hollywood script. An epic finish to an epic season. The Blackhawks were in game six, leading the series 3-2 and needing one more win for another cup. The Bruins had a 2-1 lead with under two minutes to go. Bryan Bickell got a great feed from Toews in front of the net who banked it home past Tuukka Rask to tie it up. Looked like another overtime time…NOPE! Just 17 seconds later the Blackhawks set up in the Bruins zone as Johnny Oduya blasted the puck from the point which rang off the post but right to the stick of Dave Bolland who buried it in the back of the net. In 17 seconds, a 2-1 deficit turned into a 3-2 lead. 58.3 seconds away from the Stanley Cup. The final minute went fast as the defense buckled down and did not allow the Bruins to even get a chance. The Blackhawks won it all after an epic comeback that will talked about for a long time.
Hard to list all the great moments, there are plenty others. Sadly, there are some bad moments of this era. And here they are.
10.) Darren Helm OT goal
- The 2009 revival of the Blackhawks all came to an end in the WCF against those dang Red Wings. Game five at the old Joe Louis Arena went to overtime with the Wings needing one more win to clinch the series. A 1-1 game went to overtime and Detroit’s Darren Helm scored at 16:03 to end the Blackhawks season. It was bittersweet to see the season end, but what a season it was.
9.) Blues tie it late
- The Blackhawks may have gotten the last laugh winning the 2014 series against the St. Louis Blues, but the first two games were not so great. In game two the Blackhawks were up 3-2 in the game late and win would tie the series with it shifting back to the United Center. The Blues tied it with 6.4 seconds left and eventually won in overtime. It ended up not mattering but it was still awful at the time it happened.
8.) No playoffs in 2018
- So it is not official yet, but it soon will be. For the first time since 2008 there will be no Blackhawks playoff hockey this year. Crawford on IR, Hossa having to probably end his career due to a skin condition…really stinks.
7.) Falling to the Yotes
- Hard to list just how many things were terrible about the 2012 first round series against the Coyotes. It was a sour ending for the Blackhawks season when Mike Smith and the Yotes won 4-0 at the United Center in game six. It was not the game many fans expected as many thought they could win and get it to a game seven. Not even close. When the fourth goal was scored late in the third, the stadium cleared out like the animals leaving Noah’s Ark.
6.) Singing the Blues in seven
- The defending champion Blackhawks once again faced the Blues in the first round in 2016. After trialing the series 3-1, the Blackhawks stormed back win an overtime win in game five and a decisive game six win. Game seven started poorly as the Blues skated to a 2-0 lead, but the Blackhawks tied it eventually. However late in the third period it was former Blackhawk Troy Brouwer who scored to put the Blues ahead. Seabrook nearly tied it but his blast went off both posts and out. 3-2 was the final as the Blackhawks lost the game and series by inches.
5.) Crawford goes on IR
- One of the keys to this season was goaltender Corey Crawford. When he was playing he was among the leaders in save percentage and helped steal some wins for Chicago. However in early December he was placed on IR and has not returned since. No doubt he was the team MVP this season and his absence has seen the season spiral downwards. Concussions and vertigo-like symptoms are the said cause of his IR stint, but there is still a lot of questions to be answered about how severe it all is.
4.) Torres’ hit on Marian Hossa
- Here is that awful series against the Coyotes again. In game three at the United Center around the eight-minute mark, Hossa passed the puck in neutral zone with his head downward. Raffi Torres, a known dirty player, came in full speed and jumped up to slam Hossa in the head as he fell to the ice. The crowd stood in silence as Hossa laid motionless on the ice. A stretcher had to carry him off and no penalty was given to Torres, instead a power play to the Coyotes when the Blackhawks tried to retaliate. It was a very scary moment.
3.) Swept by the Predators
- Last year’s playoff series vs. Nashville was a nightmare. In the first round the first-seed Blackhawks were swept by Nashville cleanly in shocking fashion. They could not muster a goal in their two opening games at the United Center and were outscored 13-3 in the series. The hope was to have another possible cup-run, but instead went home very early.
2.) Burrows ends the near-impossible dream
- The 2011 Blackhawks had been eaten alive by cap casualties and did not have quite the same dominance they had in 2009-2010. They squeaked in as the final seed in the west to face the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks. The series in an eye-blink was 3-0 in favor of Vancouver and it looked all but over. But…it wasn’t. Roberto Luongo got creamed in games four and five which forced a game six at the United Center on Easter. Backup goalie Cory Schneider started for Luongo, who eventually got hurt on the game-tying penalty shot by Frolik. Ben Smith scored in overtime to force a game seven. The series tied at three in Vancouver, game seven was absolutely nuts. Canucks scored first and kept pounding Corey Crawford, who kept the Blackhawks in the game. Then Toews with 1:55 to go tied the game shorthanded to force OT. Looked like it would be a story book ending. Patrick Sharp had a great feed in front of the net that he just missed for a game winner as it hit Luongo’s chest. Then, after a Chris Campoli turnover in the Blackhawks zone, Alex Burrows stole the puck and blasted it past Crawrford who had not chance. The dream just came up short in heartbreaking fashion.
And now..the worst moment for the Blackhawks in the Toews-Kane era…
1.) Los Angeles Kings take game seven at the United Center
- If there is a game that still hurts, it’s this one. The Blackhawks heartbreaking loss to the Kings in overtime in game seven of the 2014 WCF will be the one that got away in this era. This series was all for the Stanley Cup as the winner would play a pretty weak New York Rangers team in the finals. The game was basically game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. After being down 3-1 in the series the Blackhawks had forced this game seven at the United Center after an epic late comeback win in game six. Seemed like fate was on our side and there was now way the Blackhawks were losing. They took an early 2-0 lead and it seemed all but over. The Kings did not give up as they tied it at two. Then, the Blackhawks got the lead back 3-2, then it was 3-3 and then it was 4-3 Chicago in the third period. Two of the Kings goals were questionable as one was clearly offsides when they entered the zone and one was very close to being a high-stick. No matter, seven minutes left and up, the Blackhawks could get it done. Then the Kings tied it again. 4-4 at the end of three…overtime. Still it seemed like there was no way they could lose. Give the puck to Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks will welcome in the New York Rangers in two nights for game one. Alec Martinez at the point shoots the puck that bounced off Nick Leddy’s chest and fluttered over Crawford and into the net. No…no…no…that did not just happen…the Kings are mobbing each other and celebrating…this isn’t right! That is not how it is supposed to end! The United Center stood in absolute silence as the dream of back-to-back cups was crushed.