For the fourth time in the Joel Quenneville era, the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in a do-or-die Game 7 situation on Saturday night as they take on the Anaheim Ducks in the deciding game of the Western Conference Final.
In the first three instances, the storyline coming into the game was similar.
The Blackhawks trailed in all three series, with a 3-0 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and 3-1 deficits against the Detroit Red Wings in 2013 and the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. In each series, they won home and road tilts alike to force final contests, and in each series lineup tweaks were necessary to achieve that feat.
Unfortunately for Chicago, things haven’t gone smoothly for the most part once they’ve gotten to these deciding games.
In their history under Quenneville, the team is 1-2 in those contests, dropping one contest in Vancouver and the other on home ice in Chicago in 2014 against the Kings. Their lone win in a Game 7 also came on home ice as Brent Seabrook’s game-winning goal in overtime helped the Blackhawks stay alive as they ultimately won the Stanley Cup that season.
Even though the Hawks have lost twice in Game 7’s under Quenneville, they’ve played well in both contests.
The Canucks won the President’s Trophy in 2011 as the best team in the NHL, but the Hawks had them pushed to the brink as Jonathan Toews’ game-tying goal late in regulation forced overtime. In that extra stanza, one little mistake cost Chicago dearly, as Chris Campoli’s turnover led to an Alex Burrow’s goal and the Hawks’ elimination from the postseason.
In 2013, the Blackhawks got a measure of payback from the hockey gods as they stormed back from a 3-1 deficit against the Red Wings to win the series in style. It wasn’t easy, as Niklas Hjalmarsson’s late regulation goal was waved off by officials, but Seabrook’s game-winning goal in overtime propelled the Hawks to the conference final.
Finally, there was the epic Game 7 in 2014 between the Kings and Blackhawks. T
he Blackhawks had been down 3-1 in the series, but a Game 5 win at home and a Game 6 win at Staples Center forced a deciding Game 7, and it lived up to the hype. The Hawks blew two different leads in the game, but a Patrick Sharp goal late in the second period gave them an advantage heading into the third.
Unfortunately for Chicago, that lead didn’t last either thanks to Marian Gaborik, and Alec Martinez’s deflected goal in overtime gave the Kings the victory and sent the Blackhawks home in bitter disappointment.
It is perhaps that defeat that will be most on the Hawks' minds when they take on the Ducks in Game 7 on Saturday night.
The team knows what it's like to get achingly close to the Stanley Cup Final and lose in heartbreaking fashion, and they'll be looking to avoid a similar fate in this game.