Here’s the fourth entry of our 10-week Throwback Thursday series, counting down to the Hawks’ home opener on Thursday, October 5. Today, it’s the 2011-12 season and some Stanley Cup Playoff heroics from Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp.
One of the surest signs that you’re in a special era for a sports franchise is when a largely forgettable season still produces a few moments that never leave your mind. They’re certainly not as indelible as the plays that have defined the last decade of Blackhawks’ hockey, but they were still magical enough to earn a “Remember when” or two when you’re sitting at the bar on a late summer evening counting down the days until the next NHL season.
The 2011-12 season doesn’t have much worth mentioning. The Hawks finished fourth in their division with 101 points and entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, although they had a better regular season record than their No. 3-seeded opponents, the then-Phoenix Coyotes.
The turning point in this series was a moment that I’m still too angry about to discuss without using F-bombs in every other word. The Hawks would ultimately fall in six games, the team’s second consecutive first-round postseason exit. But before that, Brent Seabrook in Game 1 and Patrick Sharp in Game 2 scored game-tying goals in the dying seconds of regulation, the types of goals that only seem to happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Game 1: Seabrook’s kick to the stick tally
No Blackhawk has a deeper collection of clutch goals than Seabrook. He had the game-winner in overtime when the Hawks capped their 5-goal comeback against Calgary in 2009. He scored in the third overtime of the Blackhawks Game 4 marathon against the Nashville Predators in 2015. He did the same in Game 4 of the Hawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, although that was in the first overtime. And there’s also the series-clinching goal against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 Western Conference semifinals.
So it’s no surprise he was on the ice in the final minute of this one. If you’ve ever watched the final minute of a one-goal game in the playoffs, you know how this goes. The puck goes to the point. A shot goes on net. You jump off the seat in anticipation. The shot goes wide or a mad scramble ensues, and either way you lose control of your sanity. Then it’s back to the point and the cycle starts anew. As the clock ticked down under 20 seconds, Seabrook drifted in from the left point unnoticed and was there to corral a rebound off a Patrick Kane shot that clanked off the post. From there, it’s an easy tap-in.
Martin Hanzal scored 9:29 into overtime, though, awarding Game 1 to the Coyotes.
Game 2: Patrick Sharp’s turn
The same scenario played out in Game 2 with an early goal from Bryan Bickell and a second-period tally from Brandon Bollig (No joke. His first NHL goal, too!) keeping the Hawks in striking distance of the Coyotes.
Then that time-honored tradition of losing all touch with reality unfolded in the final minute, with each shot eliciting higher-pitched streaks from the numerous Hawks fans in attendance as Chicago fought for the goal that would keep them an early 2-0 series deficit.
Pat Foley’s frantic call of the play captures the hysteria of the moment. With about eight seconds left, Kane got the puck at the right circle, likely drawing desperate pleas of “SHOOOOOOOOT!” from every bar in the Chicago area. But he calmly set up Seabrook for a blast from the point. Sharp, perfectly positioned, gets enough of his stick on the puck to redirect it into the net for a game-tying goal with just six seconds left.
Click for the goal, stay for the Mike Smith tantrum:
Sharp nearly rips his own shoulder out of socket with one of the most emphatic fist pumps of his career. This game has a happy ending for the Hawks, too.
Halfway through the first overtime, a dominant shift led by Marian Hossa keeps the Coyotes from making a change for about a minute. With Chicago in the middle of a change, an exhausted Adrian Aucoin weakly chucks the puck up the boards. A forechecking Viktor Stalberg wins the puck out to Bickell, who beats Smith for a game-winner and his second goal of the night.
Overtime was a common them in this series, with the first five games finding their way to overtime — tying an NHL record. Jonathan Toews had the game-winner in Game 5, prolonging the series for a sixth game that went to Phoenix and ended the series.