Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Reasons They’ll Defeat The Ducks

By Colin Likas
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Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks’ defensemen are suspect. Plenty will be said about the ’Hawks rolling four defensemen for well over 20 minutes a night in each of these games. But it’s something Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya are used to doing. Larger concerns for Chicago are what it can get out of Kimmo Timonen now that he’ll need to crack double-digit minutes, and how Rundblad can adjust in his first career playoff action.

Having said that, the ’Hawks still have an advantage on defense. The Ducks’ D corps isn’t awful. It’s sort of just … there. Clayton “I’ll Probably Hit Marian Hossa in the Face for Fun” Stoner and Sami Vatanen have received very soft zone starts thus far in the playoffs, with both above 12 percent in offensive vs. defensive zone start percentage. And they’re still both under 49 percent in possession. (For reference, Timonen is above 52 percent with a offensive zone start percentage of more than 35). The other four defensemen — Cam Fowler, Francois Beauchemin, Simon Despres and Hampus Lindholm — are all better than 54 percent possession-wise in these playoffs. But, as we can recall, some soft opposition from a possession standpoint definitely boosted those numbers. In fact, none of Anaheim’s six defensemen had a Corsi-for percentage better than 52 during the regular season except Despres, who cracked 53 in just 16 games with the Ducks after being traded from Pittsburgh. For the sake of comparison, four of the ’Hawks’ six defensemen were better than 52 percent in this area during the regular season (Oduya was better than 51, while Timonen was around 46 in 16 games).

So, the Anaheim defensemen are just there. And they haven’t truly been tested yet in these playoffs. The ’Hawks’ forwards should certainly attack Stoner and Vatanen whenever possible, but all six of these defensemen were merely breakeven during the regular season. They are able to be defeated.

Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Crawford is better than Andersen. When these playoffs first started and we were trying to figure out whether the ’Hawks or Predators had the advantage in net, one thing that was pointed to was Crow’s playoff experience and his leading of the team to the 2013 Cup. That really is the difference here. This is Andersen’s first NHL playoff run. This is also his first season as the go-to goalie for a big league team. He’s certainly done well, posting a .914 save percentage in the regular season and a .925 in the playoffs. But Crawford is better in both departments with a .916 regular-season mark and a .932 playoff figure.

We all know what Crow brings to the table, typically forgoing flashy saves for sound positioning and good post-to-post movement. Andersen is a tougher study, as the ’Hawks haven’t seen him much in person. They did defeat him twice this regular season, in both 4-1 Chicago triumphs. While the ’Hawks faced two tall goalies in the last two rounds, Andersen is just plain big. He checks in at 6-foot-3 (an inch taller than Crow) and 236 pounds (20 pounds heavier than Crow). Getting him moving would seem like a wise play, as it should be tougher for Andersen to get from side to side with the extra weight on his frame. According to this scouting report, Andersen was most frequently beaten pad side and 5-hole during the regular season. Many of the ’Hawks often find themselves shooting low, so that is a nice advantage. Plus, Chicago has been shooting high more often these playoffs thanks to its recent opponents’ struggles stopping such shots. So the book on Andersen should be easier for the ’Hawks to solve than the book on Crow will be for the Ducks. Ultimately, that factor and overall experience make Crow a favorite in net for this series. And goaltending wins series.