And the Chicago Blackhawks’ Western Conference Finals opponent is…pretty much who we expected it would be.
After sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks were fully expected to breeze through the second round against the Calgary Flames. The Ducks ultimately prevailed in last night’s 3-2 OT win in Anaheim, but “breeze” doesn’t exactly come to mind.
The Ducks completely owned the Flames in Games 1 and 2, with scores of 6-1 and 3-0 respectively. But then the Flames came back with much more fight, with a Game 3 OT win in Calgary. They looked like they were beginning to figure out the Ducks and came close to extending the series in Game 5 last night.
But close only counts in horseshoes, darts, and hand grenades. And so, the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks – the only two teams in this year’s playoffs with a series sweep – will duke it out in the Western Conference Finals, facing each other in the postseason for the first time ever. But while we wait for the contests in the Eastern Conference to play out, here are five quick thoughts about the upcoming opponent.
1. The Ducks will test the Hawks in a lot of ways, but especially at the blue line. The Ducks have a lot of size, skill, and depth this year, at both ends of the ice. The Hawks will have to deal with the absence of Michal Rozsival and the return of David Rundblad, who has a lot of rust to knock off. And our top 4 will have to absorb even more minutes than they already have been. To preserve energy and minimize the Ducks’ chances, the Hawks will have to play the smartest hockey they’ve probably ever played, and not draw dumb penalties due to bad line changes like they have done in some of the playoff games this year.
2. Ex-Hawk Brandon Bollig scored on their goalie – twice. That’s not a diss on Bollig, but let’s face it, he is not the first person who comes to mind as an offensive threat, let alone in the playoffs. The implication there is that if Bollig can do it, multiple times even, our big guns should be fine. One would think.
3. A lot of people thought the series against the Minnesota Wild would go all seven games, perhaps due to the strong play by goalie Devan Dubnyk, but the Hawks ended up sweeping them. The Ducks’ goalie Frederik Andersen is probably on par with Dubnyk – very good, but not stellar. However, the team in front of him is much stronger than the way the Wild played in front of Dubnyk. If any series in the West goes to 7 games, this is likely the one that will. And the Blackhawks will be looking for redemption after last year’s heartbreaking Game 7 loss. Both teams will be bringing everything they’ve got in this series, and like last year, it will likely be the most exciting matchup of the entire playoffs.
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