There are Stanley Cup Playoffs series that come and go with little fanfare. They happened, but the occurrences were so ordinary, so routine — even for the Stanley Cup Playoffs — that they fade away from memory and are only known as a series of numbers and statistics at the Hockey Reference website.
But then there are series like the 2013 Western Conference Semifinal between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings.
The narrative was obvious from the instant the matchup was set. With the Red Wings moving on to the Eastern Conference for the following season, this was going to be the last time the two teams could meet in a non-Stanley Cup Final matchup. The storied rivalry between the Blackhawks and Red Wings could be a book itself, but the hockey games only paw at the surface of the sports clashes between Chicago and Detroit.
However, this particular script started going sideways as Chicago lost Games 2, 3 and 4, suddenly finding itself on the verge of elimination. The invincibility cloak that the Hawks had donned during a historically successful regular season was nowhere to be found. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard morphed into Ken Dryden, allowing just two goals in those three games. Jonathan Toews nearly melted down in the middle of Game 4 before Brent Seabrook pulled him back from the ledge. Sure, the Hawks had won a Cup already, but this team was supposed to be a dynasty, not a one-hit wonder. And to have that quest for immortality halted by Detroit?! By the one team that had always reduced the Blackhawks to younger-sibling status? This wasn’t fair. This wasn’t how it was supposed to work.
The Hawks got a win in Game 5 at the United Center and then scraped together a win in Game 6 thanks to late heroics by Michal Handzus and Michael Frolik.
You know the story of Game 7 by now. A Patrick Sharp goal just over a minute into the second period on a gorgeous passing play between Sharp, Handzus and Marian Hossa. Detroit tied it just 26 seconds into the third on a goal by Henrik Zetterberg. What looked like a game-winner from Niklas Hjalmarsson, was nullified because Brandon Saad getting choke-slammed by Kyle Quincey meant that both players deserved to be in the box, for reasons that still don’t make sense. A furious Toews telling his teammates in the intermission that it was OK, they’ll just win 3-1 in overtime. A hit by Dave Bolland knocks the puck free. Brent Seabrook gains the loose puck and skates into the offensive zone. He kicks up his left skate while firing a wrist shot and ...
Don’t forget to turn up your speakers for this one:
And while Seabrook has been the object of much derision around Chicago as Father Time catches up with his play but not his cap hit, this context always needs to be kept in mind when criticisms of No. 7 are being offered:
the thing to remember about seabrook is that he gave you the victory over the red wings you'd been waiting for your entire life.— CtA (@CheerTheAnthem) January 9, 2018
This was more than just a win in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This was exorcising hockey demons that had haunted the Hawks for almost two decades. Ever since the Red Wings rose to the top of the NHL in the mid-90s, they were the measuring stick for the rest of the league — and the Blackhawks were never close. For much of Detroit’s run, the Blackhawks were irrelevant. When Chicago started gaining traction, Detroit was still there to remind everyone which team was the class of the league. It happened in the 2009 Western Conference Final, when a talented but inexperienced Hawks team was swatted aside in five games by a battle-tested Red Wings squad. A similar scenario unfolded at the 2010 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.
But all that changed on Seabrook’s winner.
This was the hockey equivalent of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls finally getting past Isaiah Thomas and the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons in 1991. It was the Boston Red Sox finally overcoming the New York Yankees in 2004. It was the Chicago Cubs finally eliminating the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015. It was the win that we’re all dreaming about Mitch Trubisky leading the Chicago Bears to at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
Chicago would go on to win a Stanley Cup that postseason. They added another in 2015, its third Cup of this decade. And time still remains to match Detroit’s mark of four Cups during its run.
Oh, and speaking of those Red Wings: they haven’t won a playoff series since.