May 30, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) and center Andrew Shaw (65) celebrate after a goal by center Jonathan Toews (not pictured) against the Anaheim Ducks in the first period in game seven of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The nuclear option blew up the Ducks. Many of these observations will be focused around the later games in the series, which makes sense with the series having gone the distance. In Game 6, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville decided to deploy a Brandon Saad–Jonathan Toews–Patrick Kane first line. With the ’Hawks twice facing elimination, that line delivered in spades. The trio combined for nine points in two games, including five goals. The Ducks scored five goals total in the last two games.
Q hoped the line would boost his team’s offense, and the move worked to perfection. The Ducks really had no answer for Saad’s speed, Toews’ tenacity and Kane’s…Kaneness. Anaheim’s top line of Corey Perry–Ryan Getzlaf–Patrick Maroon was a combined -12 in Games 6 and 7. The stark contrast between the teams’ top lines in the biggest games shows a key reason why the ’Hawks prevailed in this series. The big guns showed up for Chicago (beyond Saad, Toews and Kane as well), while Anaheim’s big guys were consistently neutralized. Sure, there were spurts where the Ducks dented the twine, the 37-second fiasco in Game 5 among them. But just compare each team’s top six. Kesler had four points. Maroon and Matt Beleskey also had four apiece. Perry had just three. Only Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg were above five points for Anaheim, and they had just one goal between them. Meanwhile, Toews had seven points (five goals), Kane had seven points (three goals) and Brad Richards also turned in seven points. Marian Hossa and Saad each netted five. That’ll do the trick.
Anaheim’s bottom six disappeared. In the series’ opening game, Kyle Palmieri and Nate Thompson each scored for the Ducks. Did those two even play in the other six games? You could say that for pretty much all of Anaheim’s bottom six forwards. Thompson apparently had five points, but no goals beyond his Game 1 strike. Andrew Cogliano recorded four points. And no other bottom six forward had more than two. With the ’Hawks finding ways to silence Anaheim’s top six (Toews’ line matching up against Kesler’s and Marcus Kruger’s line taking on Getzlaf’s), the Ducks needed more from their bottom six. They didn’t get it, and they’re done playing as a result. On the Chicago side, Andrew Shaw had four points, while all three third liners — Teuvo Teravainen, Antoine Vermette and Patrick Sharp — had three. Kruger and Andrew Desjardins each had two. So none of the ’Hawks’ bottom six forwards had fewer than two points. That’ll also do the trick.