Here’s the ninth entry of our 10-week Throwback Thursday series (only one left!), counting down to the Hawks’ home opener on Thursday, October 5. Today, it’s probably the peak moment of the 2015-16 season: a 5-goal eruption in Game 6 of the Blackhawks first-round series with the hated St. Louis Blues.
Even the most optimistic of Chicago Blackhawks fans had to have their doubts about the team’s Stanley Cup aspirations for the 2015-16 season. It had been one hell of a three-year run for the Hawks: Stanley Cup victories in 2013 and 2015, sandwiched around a conference final defeat versus the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. Chicago’s players had played a LOT of hockey. Seventy-one games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, 101 in the following season, and 105 in the 2014-15 campaign. And don’t forget the Olympic games played by multiple Hawks in 2014. And it looked like those heavy legs dragged the Hawks down at times, along with a roster that was again depleted by the salary cap following a Cup victory.
But the 2015-16 season still had its moments
There was the absurd 12-game winning streak in December and January that all but assured the Hawks of a playoff spot. There was a 7-2 thrashing of a rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs team that featured goals by Viktor Svedberg and Brandon Mashinter — in the same game! From time to time, you got glimpses of a Cup-worthy team. But those glimpses were few and far between. The best glimpse came when the Hawks’ backs were against the wall, trailing the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in their first-round playoff series. With Game 6 at the United Center, though, Chicago would prove to be a tough out.
Andrew Ladd got the Hawks on the board first and Andrew Desjardins misfired on an open net that would’ve made it 2-0 in favor of Chicago. The Blues came alive immediately after that miss by Desjardins, scoring the first of the three goals they’d notch in 4:42 of the first period. The energy inside the United Center took a bigger hit with each goal and was virtually non-existent when the teams headed into the locker room with St. Louis ahead 3-1 and on the verge of ending the Hawks’ season.
Then everything changed with one swing of the stick
The Hawks got a power play three minutes into the second period, but earned only frustrated groans from the UC faithful for most of it. With time running out on the penalty, an Artemi Panarin pass set up a Marian Hossa chance that Brian Elliott stopped. But the rebound flew high into the air, coming down in range for Artem Anisimov to take a baseball hack at the puck, sending it into the net behind Elliott.
Chicago would own the play for the rest of the period, posting an absurd team CF% of 74.2 in the second. It took a while for that to turn into a game-tying goal, though. That happened eight minutes after Anisimov’s goal, when Trevor van Riemsdyk finished off a rush to the net by Jonathan Toews to tie the game at three. Dale Wiese broke the tie four minutes with a one-timer off of a brilliant pass from behind the net by Panarin. Chicago outshot St. Louis 19-8 in the dominant second period.
The goal-scoring continued in the third period, with Andrew Shaw netting a power play goal and Marian Hossa added an empty-net tally. After the UC sounded like a morgue in the first period, the stadium stayed rocking for all virtually all of the second and third periods. It was the best stretch of hockey the team played in that postseason, a little glimpse at the peak of the team’s abilities when everything clicked.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen enough that season — or in the decisive Game 7, which St. Louis won 3-2 on its home ice to end the Hawks’ season.