Blackhawks-Kings 2014 Western Conference Final Named NHL’s Playoff Series of the Decade
The Blackhawks and Kings had the showdown of the decade in the 2014 Western Conference Final.
If you’re noticing any sort of theme with the NHL’s decade awards, it’s that the Blackhawks owned the decade. You might as well call these the Blackhawk awards. On Thursday, Joel Quenneville was named the NHL coach of the decade. On Friday, the NHL named the Blackhawks the franchise of the 2010s. The accolades just keep coming.
Today, the Blackhawks and Kings took home honors for “Playoff Series of the Decade.” NHL.com deemed the 2014 Western Conference Final the Playoff Series of the Decade.
Blackhawks fans are now getting a little picky, as many are saying the 2015 Western Conference Final that featured the Anaheim Ducks and Blackhawks was better. The Blackhawks may very well have played the two greatest series in NHL history in back-to-back years. However, the 2014 series with Los Angeles slightly tops the Anaheim series. It was phenomenal.
The United Center was rocking as the Blackhawks were halfway to becoming back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. Brandon Saad opened the scoring late in the first period. The UC was “up for grabs,” as John Weideman likes to say.
Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli tied things in the second, only for Duncan Keith to grab the lead back. Jonathan Toews put the game on ice in the third period. Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 26 shots and the Hawks took Game one 3-1.
You remember the graphic on the United Center jumbotron after Hawks playoff wins. Seven wins away from Lord Stanley’s Cup. That is where the Hawks found themselves for game two vs. Los Angeles.
The game started well for the Hawks as Nick Leddy and Ben Smith each lit the lamp to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. Then Los Angeles began the onslaught of all onslaughts. The scored six unanswered and won 6-2. Ouch.
A tied series made game three quite important for both teams. The captain showed up for this one, as he scored twice to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead heading into the locker room.
However, as they did throughout this entire series, the Kings answered. Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli each scored in the second. A Drew Doughty third period goal gave Los Angeles a 4-2 lead. Patrick Sharp scored in the final seconds, but it was too late and the Kings led the series 2-1.
Down 2-1 against a loaded Kings team, game four felt like a must-win for the Hawks. Some things are easier said than done.
Corey Crawford had a tough night, as Los Angeles got the Hawks netminder for four goals on twenty shots. The Kings took game four by a score of 5-2 and held a 3-1 series lead.
The Blackhawks found themselves right where they were against the Detroit Red Wings the prior year, down 3-1 in a series. Did they have another comeback in them? Game five was do-or-die.
The Hawks showed up. Brent Seabrook opened the scoring with a power-play strike in the first. Johnny Oduya and Brandon Saad teamed up to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead. However, this was the series of the Kings never going away.
Los Angeles netted three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead. It felt like the end for the Blackhawks until Ben Smith tied things. To overtime, we went.
This series took ten years off many Hawks fans’ lives. Overtime of game five was responsible for seven of those years. Non-stop back and forth action. One overtime wasn’t enough, but Michal Handzus ended things early in the second OT period. The UC was up for grabs and Hawks had life.
It was back to sunny Los Angeles for game six, and we were presented with another night of miniature heart attacks as these teams went back and forth yet again.
Patrick Kane and Ben Smith each scored to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead entering the third period. Game seven was in sight. Not so fast. These damn Kings would never go away.
Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez each found the back of the net to give Los Angeles had the lead. Well, the Hawks had their own answers. Duncan Keith tied it. Patrick Kane won it late in the third. Warm up the jets, we have game seven in Chicago.
Game seven: the two greatest words in sports. The Blackhawks had fought back from down 3-1 in the series to get themselves to game seven. This one was a barn-burner.
This was one for the ages. The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead early after Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews lit the lamp. But, you guessed it, the Kings answered. They tied it up, only for Patrick Sharp to regain a 3-2 lead for the Hawks heading into the second frame.
The Hawks and Kings traded goals in the second. The Hawks had the lead entering the third. Would they really come back from 3-1 in a series in consecutive years? Well, the Kings never went away. Marian Gaborik tied things in the third and game seven was headed to overtime, just like the Hawks and Red Wings series from the year prior.
Deep breaths. Game seven overtime in hockey is unlike anything in sports. You can’t sit down. Breathing is difficult.
This series felt like an impending doom as a Hawks fan. The Kings simply never stopped coming. The won seemingly every faceoff. Yet, the Hawks were one goal away from the Stanley Cup Final. Some things aren’t meant to be, however, as Alec Martinez sent a shot at the Hawks net. It hit Nick Leddy in the chest, rolled off him and over Corey Crawford’s shoulder. “THE KINGS ARE GOING TO THE STANLEY CUP FINAL!”
That call and that goal still haunt me to this day. An all-time fluke goal had sent the Hawks packing. The NHL didn’t need to play the Stanley Cup Final. The Hawks and Kings had just played it.
For Hawks fans, it was the ultimate heartbreak. They were truly one goal away from another Stanley Cup. The puck didn’t bounce their way.
While at the time it was the lowest of lows, looking back now, this was truly one of the greatest series in NHL history. Two powerhouses went to war. In the end, the Kings were victorious. Nobody talks about the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Los Angeles made quick of the New York Rangers to become Stanley Cup Champions.
As a Blackhawks fan, watching that series was torture. The thoughts of “this should be us” wouldn’t go away. That’s how you know it was a great series. Whoever won was winning the Stanley Cup, sorry New York. And that assertion is how you crown it the series of the decade.