The Blackhawks made history in 2010 when they snapped a 49-year championship drought by breaking through to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. But their fate could have changed dramatically if it got to a Game 7 for a reason that practically nobody was aware of until now.
The Athletic’s NHL Insider Craig Custance sat down over the summer with some of hockey’s greatest coaches to dissect games of their crowning achievements for his book titled, “Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey's Greatest Coaches,” which was released in September. One of those coaches included was Joel Quenneville, who won his first career Stanley Cup as a head coach with the Blackhawks in 2010.
So the two went back and rewatched Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Philadelphia — the series-clinching game — to get a glimpse inside Quenneville's mind during that game.
Well, inside the book, there was a pretty big revelation regarding their star player. Jonathan Toews had apparently suffered a knee injury late in the game that was serious enough to put his status for a potential Game 7 in doubt.
Here are a few snippets:
"Jonny gets hurt in this game with less than 10 minutes to go in regulation," Quenneville says. "He can't really go. Thank God we scored early [in overtime]. I think it would have been impossible for Jonny to play Game 7."
This was all news to me.
Same to everyone else.
It happened in the waning minutes of the third period on the play the Flyers evened up the score at 3-3. Toews was shoved into the goaltender after the goal was scored and stayed down on the ice grabbing his knee, then labored back to the bench hunched over.
His teammates didn't know how serious Toews' injury was at the time either:
"It wasn't until midsummer. I remember talking to him, he was still having problems with this knee," Sharp said. "That's when I was like, 'Holy shit, we wouldn't have had Tazer in Game 7.' That just shows you the margin of winning and losing is so small."
In this moment, Hossa has no idea how banged up Toews is. He taps the puck back to Toews as they enter the offensive zone. Flyers forward Darroll Powe bumps him off the puck and the threat is wiped out. The Flyers are headed the other way.
"Yeah, he can't go. Left leg, can't really go," Quenneville says.
It went completely unnoticed, but it could have been a psychological turning point in the series if the Flyers recognized that the Blackhawks' captain was banged up:
Just imagine the lift the Flyers would get if they realized that not only had they tied the game and possibly forced a Game 7, but the Blackhawks' most important player was injured. Quenneville realized this. He was hoping to play Toews just enough to throw the Flyers off the scent.
"He gets that shift, so everybody knows he's fine. Okay, this is Carter. Watch this chance he gets."
Claude Giroux finds a wide-open Jeff Carter, who spins and fires a puck that Niemi somehow saves.
I'm stunned at how close the Blackhawks came to losing this game.
"What a chance he had," Quenneville says.
"That would have made it 4-3 and you're going back without Toews in Game 7."
"Every one, we got lucky."
What a turn of events that would have been, huh?
Knowing the competitor in Toews, he probably would have found a way to play in a possible Game 7, but it certainly makes Chicago appreciate Patrick Kane's game-winning goal in overtime even more knowing its captain may not have been able to play or, at the very least, wouldn't have been close to full strength.
The book goes into full detail of how Quenneville monitored Toews' injury throughout the end of that third period and in overtime, the communication he had with Toews and trainers, and even offers his thoughts on his shifts after the injury like he's coaching in real time again, among many other things.
It's a must-read, and a great in-depth look at how the complexion of the series could have changed on a play nobody saw.