On their Stanley Cup journey a couple years ago, the Blackhawks played a number of statement games. One of them will be rebroadcast Thursday night at 7 p.m. as Comcast SportsNet continues its popular “Chicago Blackhawks Classics” series. For this edition, we head to...Wait!! Brent Seabrook just scored!! Only 18 seconds into the opening period, he fired the first shot, and it went in!! Marc Donnelly had brought the sellout crowd to a fever pitch with his rendition of “O, Canada,” and the Blackhawks’ all-purpose defenseman sucked the air of the building with one wave of his stick!!
And so it went on the evening of May 7, 2010, at General Motors Place, where the Blackhawks declared themselves early, then shelled the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 to gain a 3-1 advantage in the Western Conference Semifinal. By following a 5-2 victory in Game 3 two nights earlier with an emphatic effort in Game 4, the Blackhawks were guaranteed at least two chances on home ice—if necessary—to eliminate their bitter rivals and advance to the third round of the playoffs.
Pat Boyle hosts Thursday night’s show beside Pat Foley, the voice of the Blackhawks, and Eddie Olczyk, who provided analysis for the original Versus telecast. During the preambles from Vancouver, Eddie O presciently remarks to play-by-play partner John Forslund that the Blackhawks have benefitted from superior goalkeeping in the series. He later praises Coach Joel Quenneville, who will also appear on the Comcast SportsNet exclusive, with achieving his desired matchups, even on the road.
Quenneville adds that the pace of Game 4 was ideal for the up-tempo visitors who capitalized on skating room to collect four power-play goals—three by captain Jonathan Toews, who became the first Blackhawk in history to execute a playoff hat trick, all on power plays. He also contributed two assists to equal a franchise mark for most points in a postseason game. Two nights earlier, Dustin Byfuglien recorded a hat trick. The last time the Blackhawks achieved back-to-back postseason hat tricks was in 1994, when Tony Amonte and Gary Suter clicked on consecutive nights against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Byfuglien continued to haunt Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo in Game 4 by creating screens and drawing penalties. Afterward, Luongo groused that “we lost our composure again…no explanation” while his coach, Alain Vigneault, praised Blackhawks netminder Antti Niemi without naming him. “I think right now,” said Vigneault, “he’s (Luongo) the second best goaltender on the ice.”
The Blackhawks played an exceptional game, crashing the net and clogging shooting lanes. Meanwhile, the Canucks, who felt the Blackhawks had taken indecent liberties on Luongo’s doorstep, attempted to deploy their promise of being more physical. But the Canucks were done in by manpower shortages, often rather quickly. For instance, after Shane O’Brien was excused for cross-checking Byfuglien out of his helmet at 9:15 of the first period, Toews won a faceoff in Vancouver’s end and scored eight seconds later with Luongo again boxing with Byfuglien’s shadow. If ever a player could have drawn an assist while scoring a goal, Toews’ heroics would have qualified.
“Jonny had a special night,” noted Quenneville. Toews bagged his second power-play goal 27 seconds into the middle period to break a 2-2 tie. After Daniel Sedin, who accumulated 28 regular-season penalty minutes, was banished for interference, Patrick Sharp—who gathered three assists—made it 4-2. Sedin then took a cross-checking infraction after the whistle, and soon Toews made the scrambled Canucks pay with his third for a 5-2 bulge. As is his wont, Toews deflected congratulations and looked ahead. “I don’t want to get too confident,” he said. “They came back hard in the first period. Everybody knows that in a series, the fourth win is the toughest to get.”
Other points of interest for Thursday night’s viewing:
- Toews was onto something. The Canucks, who stunned the Blackhawks, 5-1, in the series opener at the United Center, and scored twice in the first five minutes of Game 2 there before falling, 4-2, responded with a strong Game 5, winning 4-1.
- But the Blackhawks were onto something too. After that defeat at home, they packed enough clothes for a long trip. They won Game 6 in Vancouver, 5-1, and headed directly to San Jose for an extended stay: two games, as planned, against the Sharks in the Western Conference Final.
- Toews’ five-point night tied a franchise playoff record. Hall-of-Famer Stan Mikita had five assists against St. Louis on April 4, 1973. Steve Larmer, who should be in the Hall of Fame, collected a goal and four assists against the Blues on April 30, 1990. Toews’ hat trick was the first for the Blackhawks in a road playoff game since Bobby Hull at Pittsburgh in 1972.
- As Olczyk mentioned during the Versus telecast, it wasn’t as though General Motors Place felt unfamiliar to the Blackhawks. Six of them participated in the Winter Olympics there in February: Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, Toews and Seabrook, who like defensive partner Keith, spends his summer in British Columbia. Toews was voted outstanding forward for Canada’s gold medal team.
- Olczyk commenting on the success of the Blackhawks’ power play and their aforementioned fast pace: “Those are aided by confidence in your goalie.”
- Dave Bolland, restricted to only 39 regular-season games because of injuries, was ubiquitous during the Vancouver series as a designated pest for the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, along with linemates Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd. “Foot soldiers, not just the stars” made it happen, said Foley. As for "Big Buff," Brian Campbell suggested that “he’s probably the most hated hockey player in all of Canada right now.”
- During the telecast, it is noted that the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins, 5-4, in overtime to stay alive in their playoff series. The No. 7 seeded Flyers upset No. 2 New Jersey in the previous round, but they were down, 3-1, against Boston even after their overtime victory. So, regardless of which team advanced in the Western Conference, the Flyers almost surely would not be furnishing the finals opposition...
Or would they?