Purges, hangovers, and rebuilding. Those three words sum up the previous two seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks. The ‘Hawks quest for the Stanley Cup would get a late start in the 2012-13 season, due to forces out of their control.
A Decade of Dominance:
Part One: The Foundation
Part Two: Turning Point
Part Three: One Goal Achieved
Part Four: Hangover ‘Hawks
Due to lockout imposed by NHL owners, the 2012-13 season was delayed from its original start date of October 11th, to its new start date of January 19th. The regular season was also reduced from its traditional 82 games to a 48 game intra-conference schedule.
The Chicago Blackhawks roster was virtually unchanged from the season before, with Sami Lepisto being the only Blackhawk to not return to the team. While the ‘Hawks made very little moves, they would get a bit of a youth infusion with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw taking on bigger roles for the team.
The Regular Season
The Blackhawks got off to a quick start to start the season, winning their first five games for the first time since the 1971-72 season. The team then set a new franchise record by defeating the Detroit Red Wings running their record to 6-0-0. With their victory over the Vancouver Canucks on February 19th, the Chicago Blackhawks tied the NHL record set by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks for consecutive games to start the season with a point at 16. On February 15th the Blackhawks defeated the San Jose Sharks to top that mark. Chicago won their next seven games to extend that mark to 24 straight games (21-0-3) with a point and set a new franchise record with 11 straight wins. Chicago’s streak was snapped at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche on March 8th by a score of 6-2. The next night the Edmonton Oilers came into town and defeated the Blackhaws, to give Chicago its first losing streak of the season.
Following the losing streak the ‘Hawks once against showed their road prowess, winning three straight by the score of 15-5 over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, and the Avalanche. After a win over the Calgary Flames and a loss to Anaheim, Chicago would not lose a regulation game again until April 22nd against the Vancouver Canucks, going 9-0-2 in that stretch. The Blackhawks would end the season going 2-2, finishing the season 36-7-5, winning the Central Division, finishing first in the Western Conference, and winning the Presidents Trophy with 77 points.
During their record stretch, the ‘Hawks split goaltending duties between Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Emery set a NHL and franchise record by winning his first 10 games of the season, besting Glen Hall’s nine straight in 1966-67. Emery would extend that streak to 12 with victories over the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames in March. The duo would go on to win the Jennings Trophy, which is awarded to the goaltender playing for the team that allows the fewest amount of goals during the regular season, by allowing only 102 goals.
For the sixth consecutive season, the Chicago Blackhawks were headed back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
With only eight holdovers from the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship team (Dave Bolland, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook), the Chicago Blackhawk had not won a playoff series since that season.
Welcoming the Minnesota Wild to the United Center to being the playoffs, the ‘Hawks would get a bit of a break when Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was hurt in warmups forcing Josh Harding between the pipes. Chicago won the game 2-1 on a Viktor Stalberg third period goal on a two on one with Bryan Bickell. In Game 2, Chicago got two goals each from Sharp and Michael Frolik beating the Wild 5-2. After dropping Game 3 in Minnesota in a 3-2 overtime game, Sharp scored two more goals playoff goals and Crawford stopped all 25 shots he faced en route to a 2-0 shutout win. In Game 5 Chicago got two goals from Hossa, and Sharp scored his fifth goal of the playoffs to knock Minnesota out of the playoffs in a 5-1 game.
Chicago would play the Red Wings in the Conference Semi-Finals, marking the last time these two teams would meet in the Western Conference Playoffs. Detroit would be moving to the Eastern Conference following this season due to the NHL’s new realignment plan.
After winning Game 1 4-1 on the strength of Sharp’s sixth playoff goal and two assists, the ‘Hawks dropped the next three games by a combined score of 9-2, putting themselves in a 3-1 series deficit. The Blackhawks would win Game 5 4-1 on the strength of two Toews power play goals. Toews bounced back nicely from a rough Game 4 that saw him take three penalties. After Crawford allowed a very soft goal to Joakim Andersson, the resilient ‘Hawks scored three straight goals, including a penalty shot by Frolik, to win Game 6 4-3. The Blackhawks had forced a Game 7 after being on the brink of elimination. After a wild first six games, one had to figure that the seventh game would be just as wild. The ‘Hawks would jump to an early lead on the strength of Sharp’s seventh playoff goal in the second period. That lead would hold until the beginning of the third period, when Henrik Zetterberg beat Crawford 26 seconds into the frame. Later in the period, Hjalmarsson seemed to give the Blackhawks the lead when he beat Jimmy Howard with a shot from the point. The play would be called off due to offsetting penalties behind the play. The teams headed to overtime to see who moved on to the Conference Final. Only three minutes into the extra stanza we had our answer, when a man known for his big goals sent the Blackhawks back to the Western Conference Final.
The Blackhawks took on the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 Western Conference Final. The Kings were coming off a grueling seven game series of their own against the Sharks. In Game 1, Chicago got goals from Hossa, his sixth of the playoffs, and Sharp (8th) to jump out to a 1-0 series lead. The ‘Hawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second game of the series chasing star goaltender Jonathan Quick in the second period, going on to win the game 4-2. After losing three straight to Detroit, Chicago had now won five straight post-season games. The Kings bounced back in Game 3, defeating Chicago 3-1 at home, stretching their post-season home ice record to 8-0. After trading goals in the first two periods of Game 4, Hossa scored the deciding goal 70 seconds into the third period, giving the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead in the series.
In Game 7 of the Western Conference Final, the man they call “Showtime” came up large for the ‘Hawks. After getting goals from Keith and Kane in the first period, Chicago gave up a goal in the second and one in the beginning stages of the third. 16 minutes into the third period, Kane struck again giving Chicago a 3-2 lead in the game. With the clock winding down, and Chicago only 10 seconds away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawk fans were ready to blow the roof off of the United Center. That is, until Mike Richards deflected an Anze Kopitar shot from the right-wing boards past Crawford to tie the game up, and send it to overtime. After a scoreless first overtime frame, the teams headed to double overtime: one trying to advance to the Cup Final, the other holding on for dear life. 11 minutes into the frame, Showtime struck one more time. Bryan Bickell chipped the puck to the neutral zone, where Toews picked it up, streaking down the ice with Kane on his right on a two on one. With only Rob Scuderi between them, Toews slid the pass over to Kane, who buried it behind Quick, sending Chicago back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Stanley Cup Final
After facing the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion in the WCF, the Blackhawks took on the 2011 champion Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, marking the first time since 1979 two Original Six teams met in the Final.
In what became the longest game in United Center history, the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins in triple overtime.
Mulian Lucic got Boston on the board early, scoring two goals within the first 21 minutes of the game. Saad would close the gap with his goal in the second period, but Patrice Bergeron extended it back to two goals with is power play goal six minutes into the third period. Bolland cut the lead back in half two minutes later, and Johnny Oduya knotted the game up four minutes later. After two scoreless overtime periods, Michal Rozsival sent a shot toward Tuukka Rask that deflected of off Bolland and Shaw to beat Rask 12 minutes into the third overtime period.
Boston would even the score in Game 2. Sharp got Chicago on the board in the first period with his ninth goal of the season. Chris Kelly would even the game up 14 minutes into the second period in a mad scramble in front of Crawford. The teams once again headed to overtime, but this time Daniel Paille would play overtime hero for Boston 13 minutes into the extra session.
The Bruins shut down the powerful ‘Hawks offense in Game 3, shutting them out en route to a 2-0 win, and a 2-1 series lead. The teams would score a combined 11 goals in Game 4, with Chicago prevailing in overtime. Chicago held leads of 3-1, 4-2, and 5-4 before a Johnny Boychuck goal 12 minutes into the third period evened the game up. In the third overtime game of the series, Bickell fired a shot towards Rask that bounced towards the blueline when Seabrook gathered it, skated to his right and fired it home for his second overtime winner in these playoffs. With the series tied at 2, the teams returned to Chicago for Game 5, where “Showtime” once again came up large.
With two minutes in the opening period, Kane took a juicy Rask rebound and buried it behind the netminder to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. In the second period, he struck again, this time taking a Bickell pass from behind the net, beating Rask with a top shelf backhand. Zdeno Chara cut the lead in half with his goal in the third, but Bolland’s empty netter at 19:46 put the dagger in the Bruins, putting Chicago one win away from another Stanley Cup Championship.
Kelly gave Boston an early 1-0 lead with his goal seven minutes into the first period, but Toews would answer with one of his own four minutes into the second. Lucic gave the Bruins their second lead of the game 12 minutes into the third, and it seemed that lead would hold; until lightning struck twice in 17 seconds.
Chicago once again stood on top of the NHL mountain. Kane, with his heroics in the WCF and Stanley Cup Final, was named Conn Smythe, scoring nine playoff goals along with 10 assists. His nine goals only trailed Sharp (10) for the team lead, and his ten assists trailed only Toews (11).
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Matthew Bowen has been covering the Chicago Blackhawks for 5+ years. He has covered the team for websites such as ChiCitySports, Bleacher Report and Blackhawksondemand.