Flashback to 2011. In the season after snapping a 49-year Stanley Cup drought, the Blackhawks were barely back in the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. They were matched up against the league's President's Trophy winners in the Vancouver Canucks. Despite being an underdog, Chicago faithful entered the series with confidence due to bringing home the hardware the previous season. And then reality smacked us in the face.
The Canucks showed why they were the top seed in the Western Conference by taking the first three games of the series. Game one was a Roberto Luongo shutout. The Hawks just couldn't claw their way completely back in a 4-3 game two loss. Back on home ice, the Hawks got on the board first, but two Vancouver strikes under a minute apart midway through the second period changed the tune. Patrick Sharp was able to tie it up a couple of minutes later, but the Canucks were the only team to find the back of the net in the third, giving them a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Morale was low. We needed a huge response in game four, and we got it. An onslaught of second period goals helped lead the Hawks to a 7-2 victory. Back in Vancouver for game five, the goal party continued. The Blackhawks chased Luongo from the net by scoring four on him, then tacked one on Schneider for good measure. At the other end of the ice, Crawford pitched a 36-save shutout. The Blackhawks live another day.
This brings us to Easter night 2011. Game six. Win or go home. The Madhouse on Madison was rocking. A never-say-die mentality on the ice spilled over the boards and into the crowd. Hockey glory had just returned to Chicago the year before, and damnit, we weren't letting it go just yet.
This one was a back-and-forth affair. Vancouver got on the board first thanks to Daniel Sedin, assisted by Henrik, because OF COURSE. Bryan Bickell answered. Alexandre Burrows snuck in an unassisted goal with just over a minute to go in the opening frame. Dave Bolland had the equalizer in the second. The Canucks weren't messing around early on in the third period as Kevin Bieksa potted the go-ahead goal not even a minute in. We needed someone to step up. That opportunity came about a minute and a half later when Michael Frolik was awarded a penalty shot.
UNREAL. Tie game. Schneider clearly tweaked something on the play, so the Canucks had to turn back to Roberto Luongo. The final 17 and a half minutes of the third period weren't enough to decide this one.
On to overtime. Five minutes go by, no scoring. Ten minutes pass, still knotted up. Jump to just under five minutes left. The Hawks enter the zone and Hossa corrals the puck on the half-wall. In typical Demigod fashion, big Hoss protects the puck with one hand on the stick while using the other to shield himself from defenders and work toward the middle of the ice. He drops it back for Hjalmarsson, who fires a shot from the point. And then..
Of all people, BEN SMITH slams home the rebound to send this series the distance. Absolute BEDLAM. This made the Hawks the seventh team in NHL history to force a game seven after trailing 3-0 in a playoff series.
We all know how this series ended up, so we won't revist that. All I can say is that I hate Chris Campoli and I will never forgive him. But that's not what's important here. What we should remember is that amazing performance on Easter night in 2011. The Hawks gave us headaches, joy, anxiety, thrill, nervousness, and then elation. To Michael Frolik and Ben Smith, thank you for a wild ride we'll never forget.
Featured Photo: Illinois Press Photographers Association