By: Alex Patt
It is hard to believe that the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks season was half of a decade ago. The lockout-shortened season which began in mid-January saw the Blackhawks finish with the most points in the NHL and eventually the Stanley Cup. However the journey to the very top was not an easy one. After an easy extinguishing of the Minnesota Wild in the first round, the Blackhawks ran into their long-time rivals the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. It looked like a sad ending to the season after being down 3-1 in the series, but Chicago came back and won Game 5 and Game 6 to force an all-decisive Game 7 at the United Center.
Five years ago today, 5/29, that Game 7 took place. The crowd was loud and proud during Jim Cornelison’s anthem singing and the energy carried over into the start of the game. Corey Crawford was in goal for the Blackhawks and veteran Jimmy Howard for the Red Wings. Both stood their ground the first period, but the scoreless tie would be broken by Patrick Sharp early in the second period on a great feed by Marian Hossa. 1-0 Hawks.
When the teams skated out for the third period, it was still 1-0. However the United Center crowd went deathly silent just 26 seconds into the period when Henrik Zetterberg tied the game. As the third period went on, both teams got their chances, but the goaltenders continued to stay strong. Coming down to the final minutes, the tension in the crowd grew. Just one goal could decide the game and series. By that point most people in the United Center were standing as they watched it all unfold. Then with 1:47 left in the game, Niklas Hjalmarsson got a perfect feed from Andrew Shaw as he staked towards the net with nobody but Howard in front of him. He sent a slap-shot laser over Howard and into the net as the crowd cheered so loud the TV cameras were shaking. Looked like the game was won.
Not so fast.
Almost immediately one of the refs was waiving off the goal. He was near the benches where Brandon Saad was being pushed into the Red Wings bench and was being tied by one of their players. It was an incredibly bad no-goal call and the game ended up going to overtime as a chorus of boos rained down. Hjalmarsson was livid but the team regrouped in the dressing room.
After 20 long minutes, overtime began. The tense crowd sat at the edge of their seats as the puck was dropped. Dave Bolland had a great chance out in front as he slapped one towards the goal, but Howard stopped it and it bounced away. Right after, Detroit had a decent chance in the blue paint but could not get anything on it as Crawford smothered it.
Then at 16:28, Bolland checked Gustav Nyquist near the penalty box which freed the puck for Brent Seabrook, who got it and skated into the Red Wings zone. He wristed the puck towards the net which deflected off of Niklas Kronwall’s leg as he tried to block the shot and floated over the glove of Jimmy Howard into the net. Blackhawks win the game 2-1 and head to the conference finals. The United Center was rocking once again as the team mobbed each other on the ice.
Game 7 was the final game the Blackhawks would play the Red Wings as division rivals. After 80+ years of being right with each other, the Red Wings were on their way to the Eastern Conference the next season. Fitting their final game as division rivals would end in overtime of a Game 7. For so many Blackhawks fans who lived to see the Toews-Kane era, this game is among the top of their best memory lists. It will be remembered for a long time.