May 30, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) celebrates with defenseman Duncan Keith (2) his goal scored against the Anaheim Ducks in game seven of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The ’Hawks’ D did its job, and then some. Neutral fans seem to be falling in love with Duncan Keith, but Chicago fans have known about his excellence all along. It was on full display in this series, as he pushed the ’Hawks’ offense (rewatch Saad’s, Toews’ and Kane’s goals that were linked above; he had a role in all three) and cleared pucks away from Crawford with ease. Keith tallied eight points (all assists) while taking on the Ducks’ toughest forwards. He played 23 more minutes than any other Blackhawk in the series. The man was once again a stud, and the ’Hawks likely don’t win this series without his presence. Not to be forgotten, Brent Seabrook scored five points while seamlessly accepting assignments alongside Kyle Cumiskey. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya brought their typical dominant defensive presence throughout the series, while Cumiskey, David Rundblad and Kimmo Timonen were all serviceable in their own ways.
From a purely defensive perspective, the ’Hawks defensemen played very well with their goaltender, Crawford. Crow’s style often allows pucks to hit him and bounce away. It relies on the defensemen to pick these pucks up cleanly and flick them out of the zone, or at least to a less dangerous part of the ice. And the ’Hawks defensemen consistently did that in this series. The Ducks and their big bodies were constantly cruising toward the net looking for rebounds, but there was often nothing for them because the ’Hawks had already cleared the puck. This was key to keeping the Ducks at bay offensively.
The Ducks’ style didn’t faze the ’Hawks. Time to go back to the delusional Ryan Kesler. You want to talk about a guy who bought into what Anaheim was trying to do…he couldn’t shut up about it. “We’re gonna hit ‘em and hit ‘em and hit ‘em and then they’ll never want to play hockey again,” is what he essentially said. Over and over. He has a promising career in advertising once his time ends in hockey. But it ultimately didn’t matter. The ’Hawks took their lumps, and they just kept trucking along. They let the Ducks put themselves out of position going for a big hit and took the resulting odd-man rushes with arms wide open. One particular moment sticks out, mostly because it happened in last night’s clincher. Keith was playing a puck behind Crawford when not one, but two Ducks attempted to drive him into the eighth row. Keith saw it coming and just played around it, clearing the puck ahead to a teammate without breaking a sweat. The Ducks didn’t want to change their approach, and the ’Hawks made them pay. Is Chicago a little banged up after this series? Probably. Bryan Bickell and Kruger played very little in Game 7, checking in at 4:22 and 10:34 in ice time, respectively. For comparison’s sake, Desjardins played 17:52, one second more than Saad. Bickell and Kruger may be hurting, as other guys might be. But the ’Hawks will keep on keeping on. They proved it in this series, as Anaheim’s aggression ultimately led to its downfall.
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