With two days until the Blackhawks and Ducks finally drop the puck, it’s only fair to preview what the Hawks’ will be tasked with dealing with for the upcoming series.
Defensively the Ducks don’t stack up as well as the Wild or the Predators did. The Wild had Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin. The Predators had Shea Weber, Seth Jones and Roman Josi, who could push the play when he wanted to. This Ducks team won’t have anybody resembling those names, but do have some guys that can cause the Hawks’ some trouble.
Despite all that trouble, this is why the Hawks’ are being picked by so many who get paid to do so. This Hawks’ forward core can really push the play against D-men who have some trouble keeping up. To the preview.
Francois Beauchemin- Playoffs: 0 G, 6 A, + 7; Regular Season 50.60 CF%
Hampus Lindholm- Playoffs: 1 G, 5 A, + 1; Regular Season 51.58 CF%
These guys and the next pairing that I’ll cover, could be interchanged as the top line. Unlike a number of teams that role their top guys for upwards of 28-30 minutes, none of the Ducks D-men average more than 24 minutes a game. Lindholm, Beauchemin, Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen all hover around 20-23 minutes, leaving a lot in the tank if this series drags on (although there isn’t much in the tank to begin with). Beauchemin, at age 34, is a far-cry from his days in 2006-2007, where he scored 28 points while leading a top pair to a Stanley Cup.
Lindholm is the crown jewel of this line. The 21-year-old is viewed as the future of the Ducks defense, using his high hockey IQ to be a quality two-way defensemen for the Ducks moving forward. His ability to join the rush should concern the Hawks’, as he has quick hands and keen eye for passing, which could spell some trouble. It’s still unsure which one of the two pairings get the duty of handling Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. If it ends up being these one, Beauchemin won’t be able to keep up with Saad, and will likely want to play along the boards where he has the physical advantage. Lindholm will have his hands full of Hossa, but like I said, if he can push the play and join the rush, he is a force.
Cam Fowler- Playoffs: 1 G, 4 A, +7; Regular Season 50.15 CF%
Simon Despres-Playoffs: 0 G, 5 A, +6; Regular Season 53.03 CF%
The other option for Bruce Boudreau to deploy against the Hossa-Toews-Saad, and at home he should try his best to get every matchup advantage he can. Although mixing up who gets Toews and Hossa could leave some trouble down the line for who has to matchup with Kane. Boudreau may see what sticks in the early going and ride that throughout the series, as he doesn’t have a ton of depth to lean on in the key moments. Fowler is another youngster for this Ducks defense, at only age 23. The former US Olympian has quite the skill set, matching Lindholm as a guy who can handle the puck and join the rush. Fowler is also very solid in his own end. He has had his share of problems this year, being scratched because of poor play. The Ducks are going to need the Olympic version of Fowler to show up if they want to have a chance.
Despres is an interesting character. Acquired in a trade that saw Ben Lovejoy shipped to Pittsburgh , Despres brings more mobility than Lovejoy would have. Despres is a solid defensemen that isn’t too great at one thing, although being 6’4 certainly helps. He really can serve as the calm partner for Fowler in case things go underwater while their on the ice. If tasked with Toews’ line, they may find themselves underwater quite a bit, which will require Fowler and Despres to weather the storm and hope to get some opportunities of their own.
Sami Vatanen- Playoffs: 2 G, 5 A, +5; Regular Season 51.76 CF%
Clayton Stoner- Playoffs: 0 G, 0 A, +2; Regular Season 51.34 CF%
This is where Hawks’ fans should start licking their chops. Clayton Stoner, many Hawks’ will remember, spent last spring/summer in a world of hurt because of the Hawks’ forwards. That same Stoner is back again for more, but this time getting some more action. The Hawks’ have quite the forward depth, which can cause a lot of trouble for a third pairing like this one; one that has some flair in the offense zone, but struggles in front of Andersen. Whether it’s the Kruger led group, or Teravainen’s line, the Hawks are sure to get a number of key chances when the play in Anahiem. And when things return to the Madhouse, Coach Q will be sure to get out Kane’s line and Toews’ line out as much as he can. Vatanen brings the offensive punch of these two, but there is a reason he’s on the third pairing. Things for him don’t go well in the defensive end. This is where the Hawks’ should win the series on paper, just left up to execution now.