In perhaps the most anticipated series of the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks ended the long, long wait and headed out to sunny California to face the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. The Ducks had the top seed in the Western Conference this year, but the Blackhawks were nonetheless favored to win, heading into the series.
After all, they knocked off the Central Division’s top team, the Nashville Predators, in a hotly contested first round. They also swept a surging Minnesota Wild in the second round.
Then again, the Ducks weren’t exactly chopped liver themselves. They swept the Winnipeg Jets – a team that pretty much had the Blackhawks’ number most of the season – in the first round, and only allowed the Calgary Flames to win one game in the second round.
Although each team in this year’s Western Conference Finals has a slight edge over the other in some area of play, overall it appears that the teams should be evenly matched.
And yet. Despite dominating puck possession, shot attempts, and shots on goal, the Blackhawks dropped the first contest to the Ducks. Below is a period-by-period breakdown of the…breakdown.
Hawks had the puck and were in the offensive zone more often than not. Didn’t matter, because Frederik Andersen wasn’t having any of it, including what would have been a sure goal by Patrick Kane.
Ducks goal – Hampus Lindholm at 8:48
Almost a carbon copy of the first period, except a late goal by Brad Richards cut the lead in half.
Ducks goal – Kyle Palmieri at 4:17
Blackhawks goal – Richards at 19:20
A/k/a when the excrement hit the rotating cooling device.
Ducks goal – Nate Thompson at 12:05
Ducks empty net goal – Jakob Silfverberg at 18:42
And that’s all she wrote.
So, what do the Blackhawks need to do to take back the helm in the series? For starters, they should keep shooting – try to score early and often. Andersen is no doubt playing in his prime, but as we have already seen in these playoffs, the Blackhawks are goalie killers. They have already sent Vezina Trophy finalists Pekka Rinne and Devan Dubnyk to early tee times this year.
They also have to get creative on defense. It’s clear that David Rundblad, bless his little heart, just isn’t going to cut it. It’s notable that it wasn’t the Ducks superstars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who scored for Anaheim today. Duncan Keith, great as he is, won’t be 100% perfect at all times, so whoever is on the ice with him as to be at least moderately reliable. It’s crazy that after a game like today, fans are lamenting the absence of Michal Rozsival, whom many (including yours truly) had hoped would be traded or benched before playoffs but ended up doing fairly well until his ugly injury in the Wild series.
Corey Crawford, while not terrible, could be crisper. Granted, the team in front of him didn’t exactly do a stellar job of helping him out, but he just seemed to have a slightly off game today, even though he made some great saves in his own right.
Don’t even get me started on the Blackhawks power(less) play. They were 0-for-3 today, and especially with the two practically back-to-back man advantages in the third period, that could have made all the difference. At least they killed the lone penalty they incurred in the second period.
The Ducks are 5-0 in the postseason when scoring first; they were 36-5-6 during the regular season. Blackhawks are 30-0-0 when leading after first 2 periods. It’s time for our boys to turn up the heat and make that 31-0-0, and counting.
Game 2 is Tuesday at 8 p.m. CST.
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