It’s the “Best Teams to Never Win a Championship” week on the SB Nation network. The Second City Hockey team (Brandon, Dave and Shepard) selected the 2013-14 team as the best Blackhawks team to never win a Stanley Cup.
To understand why and how the 2013-14 Blackhawks team didn’t win the Stanley Cup, we took a closer look at Western Conference Final and Game 7 of the series against the Kings that saw Chicago’s rally from a 3-1 series deficit come up short.
Chicago held the lead in three of the four games it lost in the series. The lone loss the Blackhawks didn’t have a lead? The 5-2 defeat in Game 4 when the Kings scored four straight goals by the 12:43 mark of the second period.
The Blackhawks were up 2-0 only 1:40 into the second period in Game 2 until the Kings stormed back with six unanswered goals. In Game 3, Chicago was up 1-0 and 2-1 before three straight goals but a Patrick Sharp goal with five seconds remaining made the 4-3 score look better than it was. In Game 7, the Blackhawks had the lead three times: 2-0 at 8:36 and 3-2 at 17:34 of the first period and 4-3 at 18:25 of the third period. Marian Gaborik tied it 4-4 at 12:43 of the third and Alec Martinez won the series for the Kings 5:47 into overtime.
Chicago was 5-for-23 (21.7 percent) on the power play in the series, including a combined 0-for-7 mark in Games 3 and 4, which the Kings both won. The Blackhawks also had a hard time against Los Angeles’ power play, which was 6-for-18 (33.3 percent). The Kings scored their first two goals of Game 2 in the third period on the power play to tie the game before adding four more (three at even strength, one empty netter). Slava Voynov scored on the man advantage 50 seconds after Jonathan Toews’ shorthanded goal in Game 3. The Kings scored two of their first three goals on the power play in Game 4. Martinez’s power-play goal in Game 6 put the Kings ahead 3-2 before Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane both scored to force Game 7.
The main difference between the Blackhawks teams that won titles in 2013 and 2015 and the one that didn’t in 2014 came down to the fourth line. Specifically, the 2014 team didn’t have enough production for it. The three players who often comprised that line were Michal Handzus, Brandon Bollig and Kris Versteeg. In Western Conference Final, that trio combined for one goal (Handzus) and one assist (Bollig). In Game 7 — which went into overtime — Handzus skated 8:40, Versteeg skated 3:44 and Bollig skated 2:28, indicative of coach Joel Quenneville’s lack of trust in his fourth line. Compare that to 2013’s fourth line of Marcus Kruger, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik that scored the Cup-winning goal and 2015’s fourth line of Andrew Shaw, Kruger, Andrew Desjardins that was a menace for much of the postseason. That 2014 team was one line short of a complete lineup.
With the Blackhawks up 2-0 in the first period, Dustin Brown carried the puck into Chicago’s zone and fired a shot off Corey Crawford which bounced into the air and Jeff Carter batted into the net. But, Carter entered the zone before Brown had carried the puck meaning Carter was offside and the goal should not have counted. The call wasn’t reviewable, but whether or not Carter hit the puck above the crossbar was and it was ruled a good goal.
In game 7 of the Western Conference final, Jeff Carter's goal was clearly offside, Chicago should have won. pic.twitter.com/3gZIOYk3uO— NHL Chirps (@nhlchirpz) June 2, 2014
If Carter’s goal was disallowed, the Blackhawks would’ve still have a 2-0 lead and the frantic three goals in 1:03 (two by the Kings in 51 seconds) wouldn’t have occurred and the tone and feel to the game would’ve likely been much different.
The overtime goal
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville didn’t make a line change for a face-off and the team paid for it. Carter won the faceoff against Handzus, Justin Williams flipped the puck into the corner and swatted Nick Leddy’s stick out of the defenseman’s hands which he then went to retrieve allowing Jarret Stoll to grab the puck behind the net and send a pass to Martinez at the left point for an open shot which bounced off Leddy and into the net for the series winner.