Anaheim Ducks vs Chicago Blackhawks
Game 1: @ Anaheim May 17 (Ducks 4-Blackhawks 1)
Game 2: @Anaheim May 19
Game 3: @Chicago May 21
Game 4: @Chicago May 23
Game 5: @Anaheim May 25*
Game 6: @Chicago May 27*
Game 7: @Anaheim May 30*
Season series: Chicago won two of the three games this season, outscoring Anaheim by a total of 8-3.
One word comes to mind when I think of the Chicago Blackhawks forwards: Deep. They can roll four lines and use their forecheck to wear down the opposing defense. It all starts with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They are easily a top five offensive duo in the league today. Marian Hossa seems to have the puck find him in the playoffs, and Patrick Sharp is one of those players who can turn it up a notch when May rolls around. Add in rookie Teuvo Teravainen with his high skill set, and these forwards will give the Anaheim defense all they can handle.
They are large and very talented. Corey Perry, highly skilled and who some may call the best agitator in the game, will be a focal point for the Chicago defense. Ryan Getzlaf is a pure playmaker; his vision and ability to hold the puck and draw defenders to him are amazing. By garnering the attention of defenders, it opens up his line mates. Bringing Ryan Kesler into their forward group was a wonderful addition. Kesler gives Anaheim depth at center and makes the opposing defense have to worry about a second scoring line.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are perhaps the most dependable blue line pair in the league. The loss of injured Michal Rozsival will be an obstacle to overcome, but they have eager players who are ready to step up to fill the void. David Rundblad and Niklas Hjalmarsson will be relied upon heavily to move the puck out of the defensive zone and start the rush on transition.
To say the Ducks defense is stingy would be underselling them. They aren’t fancy by any means, but they get the job done. They aren’t considered a shot-blocking squad, but they find a way to keep teams from even thinking about taking shots. They exit the defensive zone quickly due to their mobile defenders: Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm. The way they carry the puck and can be thought of as extra forwards reminds me of how Paul Coffey and Sergei Zubov would command attention.
Corey Crawford finally regained the starting spot, and he was superb against Minnesota with a .947 save percentage. Crawford won the Stanley Cup in 2013, and it appears that he is back in that form. Good for Chicago, not so much for Anaheim.
This is Frederik Andersen’s playoffs. After going back and forth last postseason, he has made a statement this year, going 8-1 with a goals against average of 1.96. He rarely falls victim of the soft goal, and directs rebounds away from the middle of the ice.
The experience of Crawford and the core of Chicago‘s roster should give them an edge in what shapes up as a fantastic Western Conference Finals. Andersen will end up with a Cup or two, but not this season. He will use this series to build on what should be a stellar career. The Blackhawks win a thriller in seven games…and Game 7 might just creep into double overtime.
Matt Molina is a Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @MattMMolina.