The following ran in Sunday’s edition of ‘The Committed Indian’. Feel free to leave your thoughts on what game sticks out most for you. Also, on unrelated note, for the next few days until Thursday, posts will be coming with more frequency during the day. Anything that we feel needs to be addressed will be addressed quickly and accordingly. So stick to the Feather to catch what we’re throwing at you.
Through the course of an 82-game NHL season, the difference between making the playoffs and heading to the golf course in early spring is tiny. Last year, the Blackhawks mustered 88 points. The eighth seed of the Western Conference, Nashville, had 91. If the outcome of five games were different, the ‘Hawks would have found themselves playing meaningful hockey in April. If only the ‘Hawks decided to play defense against Edmonton in a 6-5 overtime loss down the stretch or if Denis Savard tapped someone other than Cam Barker in a must-score shootout opportunity against Colorado, things may have been a bit different.
With that said, the biggest reasons the ‘Hawks find themselves in the position they are in this year can be found in five games: ten points the ‘Hawks acquired that have them in fourth place of the Western Conference rather than tenth.
What makes them more important than the rest? Well, the answer is multiple. Anyone can tallywack the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars eight times a year, but the ten points acquired in the following games were instrumental in defining this team and their position in the standings. Without further ado, here are the five most important wins of the 2008-’09 regular season.
5. November 18th, Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 2 (Shootout) — The two points weren’t as important as what happened in this one. At the beginning of the second period, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane each took a lazy penalty. In his twelfth game behind the ‘Hawk bench, Joel Quenneville clearly had seen enough, promptly benching Sharp and Kane for the remainder of the period. The ‘Hawks went on to win, and even if it was already there, respect for Coach Q was demanded in the dressing room. It also set the tone for one of the most successful Thanksgiving trips since Mike Keenan waxed his mustache in the Stadium’s basement.
What Fifth Feather said at the time: “With the game on his stick [during the shootout], Peter Mueller put it right in the glove of Khabibulin. With that, the Hawks had their second shootout win of the year and their first win on the road trip that will save all of humanity.”
4. March 11th, Blackhawks 3, Hurricanes 2 (Shootout) — Perhaps the biggest key to any season is limiting losing streaks and collecting valuable points during the bad times. In hindsight, these were two enormous points because without them, the ‘Hawks would have had an eight-game losing streak late in the season. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg each beat Cam Ward in the shootout after Dave Bolland blew a tire with twenty seconds left in regulation to give ex-Hawk Tuomo Ruutu the tying goal.
What Fifth Feather said at the time: “When the NHL first came up with a 4-on-4 overtime concept a few years ago, this was the type of action they expected. From the drop of the puck, there were glorious chances at both ends. Kane was denied on another semi-breakway. Just a minute earlier, he hit the crossbar on a rebound attempt. Carolina’s Eric Staal was brushbacked on a wraparound attempt and then later on a breakaway as time expired.”
3. February 19th, Blackhawks 4, Panthers 0 — On the surface, this game doesn’t look very special. What fans forget about this one is that it was a 1-0 game for 50 minutes. Moreover, the Panthers were one of the hottest teams in the league at that point. In a stretch of 21 games, this was only Florida’s fifth loss in regulation. On the other side of the proverbial coin, the ‘Hawks were in the midst of playing 12 of 14 games on the road. Games like this were landmines for ‘Hawk teams of the past, usually resulting in thrashings that sent us into therapy.
What Fifth Feather said at the time: “After 40 tight minutes, the game came down to the third period, and the ‘Hawks dominated the frame for the second straight game. Just as they did up the road in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, the ‘Hawks took control with 19 third period shots and three goals.”
2. November 22nd, Blackhawks 5, Maple Leafs 4 (OT) — On Hockey Night in Canada and the evening of Wendel Clark’s retirement ceremony, the Leafs came out to do some harm. (This was obviously before they decided to pack it in and actually gave a damn.) They led 3-0 halfway through and 4-2 heading into the third period. The ‘Hawks looked like they wanted no part of this one and very easily, could have given up. Twenty minutes later, it was tied and Dave Bolland finished it off with a wrap-around in overtime for two points.
What Fifth Feather said at the time (in a running journal): “Two points in Toronto! They come back from down three to win in OT. Unbelievable!”
1. January 31st, Blackhawks 4, Sharks 2 — The San Jose Sharks have only lost four games at home in regulation this year. This was one of them. Had the ‘Hawks not had a goal taken off the board thanks to a little known high-sticking penalty rule, the game could’ve been a rout. Instead, the ‘Hawks fought through the adversity and played their most complete game of the season in a building that has been a house of horrors for them. (It was their first win in San Jose since 2003.) Captain Serious was the star, netting two goals, including a beauty where he roofed it right over Evgeni Nabakov’s shoulder from five feet out.
What Fifth Feather said at the time: “Was this a ‘statement game?’ Were the ‘Hawks really looking to show the Sharks and the rest of the NHL what they’re made of? Maybe. But, the statement was probably more of a statement to themselves: ‘We’re alright.'”