The Chicago Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 is more proof why the NHL playoffs are the best of any sport. The game had every emotion known to man, but it was Chicago’s fans that left with tears of happiness–and relief. Chicago won 2-1 in overtime and advanced to the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
As the clock dwindled to 2:00 left in regulation, everyone knew the next goal could very well win the game. With 1:47 left, Niklas Hjalmarsson scored what appeared to be the winning goal for the Hawks.
But did he? The scorers erased the goal as quickly as they placed it on the board.
Behind the play, Detroit’s Kyle Quincey and Chicago’s Brandon Saad were wrapped around each other in front of the Detroit bench. Referee Stephen Walkom was not willing to allow these penalties to go and called off the goal to give both players coinciding roughing minor penalties. The arena and Twitter blew up. The consensus from non-Hawks reporters or fans is that it was a bad call. During intermission, NBC Sports Network analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones immediately agreed it was a terrible call. Milbury even suggested Walkom would redo the call if he could. But it did not matter. The game was headed to overtime.
It did not last long because Brent Seabrook’s wrist shot sailed past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard after hitting Detroit’s Niklas Kronwell in the leg at the 3:35 mark in overtime. It was Seabrook’s first goal of the playoffs and the arena was shaking from the fans erupting in cheers. The Hawks came back from being down 3-1 in the series to advance to the next round.
Kronwell went straight to his knee and Howard quickly skated over to him and the two shared an emotional embrace. One can only imagine what Howard told him, but Howard is a class act and more than likely was comforting him.
There was no scoring in the first period, but plenty of defense. Both teams were hungry and showed it. Usually in the playoffs, especially in a Game 7, the refs back off and allow the teams to play. Unless blood is drawn anything goes. The teams were hitting each other left and right and ended the period almost even on shots. Chicago got 13 shots on goal, while Detroit had 11. After the game Detroit head coach Mike Babcock said if it had been a regular season game there would have been a lot more penalties. The game was very physical.
The second period was even more intense with Chicago coming out ready to win. A 3-on-1 consisting of Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Michal Handzus led to the first goal. Sharp gave it to Handzus, who passed it to Hossa. Hossa then passed it back to Sharp and he flipped it right past Howard to make it 1-0. It was the only goal of the period, but had it not been for Chicago goalie Corey Crawford the Red Wings could have easily taken complete control going into the third period. But Crawford managed to stop any turnover that came his way and keep the one goal lead.
Something happened in the Detroit locker room in the second intermission because 26 seconds into the third period Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg tied the game. They scattered the Hawks, which gave Detroit an easy 2-on-1 into the Hawks zone. Gustav Nyquist passed it to Zetterberg, who shot the puck past Crawford. 1-1. The goal quieted the United Center and fans watching on TV could almost hear the nail biting in the arena. Everything was so close and one little slipup could cost either team the game and series.
Now it is time to start the conference finals. Chicago will host the L.A. Kings on Saturday at 5PM EDT on NBC Sports Network. The Pittsburgh Penguins host the Boston Bruins on Saturday at 8PM EDT on NBC.
The four remaining teams are also the last four teams that won the Stanley Cup: Pittsburgh (2009), Chicago (2010), Boston (2011), and Los Angeles (2012).