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Chicago Blackhawks’ Eye on the Enemy: Anaheim Calling

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Mar 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Tanner Kero (67) battles for the puck with Anaheim Ducks center Nate Thompson (44) and right wing Ondrej Kase (86) during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Tanner Kero (67) battles for the puck with Anaheim Ducks center Nate Thompson (44) and right wing Ondrej Kase (86) during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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The season is coming to a close for the Chicago Blackhawks and there is no better way to finish off the schedule than by road tripping to beautiful California.

What’s not to like about California? You have the beaches, the outstanding atmosphere, sight-seeing, and so much more. Cali may be the prime vacation destination for just about anyone. Anyone except the Chicago Blackhawks whose vacationing will hopefully not start until after Lord Stanley makes its way back home to Chicago!

The Blackhawks will invade Anaheim in hopes of finishing the year off on a positive note, but the ever so familiar Anaheim Ducks have other ideas in mind.  These two playoff bound teams will clash just before the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Playoffs in what could be a possible later round matchup in the Western Conference.

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Chicago clinched home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and have since looked to be coasting to the finish. Coasting is exactly what could be made of in the Blackhawks’ last game against Colorado which ended in a 4-3 OT loss to extremely, underachieving Colorado Avalanche. Although the score makes it seem like it was a close contest, anyone who tuned in would tell you the exact opposite. Chicago allowed 51 shots on goal and gave up two short-handed goals in the loss. It’s safe to say that if it wasn’t for Scott Darling keeping this one close, the ‘Hawks would have been crushed. This loss also put into perspective just how important Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson are to Chicago as the blue line looked rather weak in this one.

However, the Anaheim Ducks are coming off a huge 3-1 victory over their division foe, the Calgary Flames. The Ducks eclipsed the 100 point mark on the year with this victory and also extended their home win streak against the Calgary Flames to 25 games. The ‘Hawks last meeting with Anaheim resulted in 1-0 shutout loss at home in which backup goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, played downright brilliant stopping all 43 shots he faced. After Bernier’s dominant performance against the Blackhawks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in net again when these two teams meet Thursday.

Here to help me break down this matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks is  Contributor John Broadbent of SB Nation’s Anaheim Calling. John was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding who to watch out for, etc., ahead of the meeting at the Honda Center. So without further ado, let’s get some inside information on the Anaheim Ducks in this week’s “Eye on the Enemy”.

Here’s what John Broadbent had to say.

Apr 1, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks defensemen Cam Fowler (4) tries to tip a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks defensemen Cam Fowler (4) tries to tip a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

Question 1: Who has surprised you the most this season for Anaheim and why?

JB: Rickard Rakell is the easy choice. He came in late and we were expecting him to have at least a little rust but it was as if he had been playing pro hockey someplace else. He had apparently been playing with his younger brother’s team in Sweden, so I guess the youth leagues are pretty legit over there. A dark horse surprise for me would be the initial play of Ondrej Kase. Here is a kid that the Ducks took in the 7th round in 2014 with a throw away pick from Toronto in the Peter Holland deal and he has spent one injury plagued year with the Gulls then out of nowhere earns a call up and sticks with some nice chemistry with Ritchie. He has since been sent back down with Thompson coming back from long-term injury. But for a 7th round pick, I don’t think anybody expected he could some day be a consistent top 9 forward.

Question 2: Jonathan Bernier played solid in net during John Gibson’s absence. Do you see any competition for the No. 1 goaltender during the playoffs?

JB: Our team at AC have debated over this and I agree with JC McDonoughs piece (http://www.anaheimcalling.com/2017/3/29/15095010/gibson-vs-bernier-anaheims-goaltender-debate) – Gibson has the overall better numbers and has the playoff experience. He was given the nod “as the guy” to start the season and to avoid repeating history (whilst thus causing him a complete meltdown of confidence) the net should be his to start the playoffs. Having Bernier there in case he goes down with injury again is definitely a much less scary thought though.

Question 3: Is there anything to be made from Cory Perry’s slightly down year offensively?

JB: Ah Ye Olde “Whats up with Perry?” question. Again the writers at AC all felt he wasn’t a lost cause. In fact he had still been contributing indirectly and even when not scoring he was still getting his chances. He was just incredibly inexplicably snake-bit. Over the past two weeks he seems to have his scoring touch back and we are all hoping he carries that into the playoffs so the Ducks can have balanced scoring threats on two lines much like the Hawks do.

Question 4: What teams do you find the most ideal and least ideal for the Ducks in the opening round of the playoffs?

JB: Honestly – no matter who the Ducks face, it is going to be a tough go of it. Felix has been doing an awesome job of doing a match-up analysis for each of the three teams the Ducks are likely to face. The Sharks have slightly better corsi for and against but with the recent injury to Joe Thornton and now Logan Couture looking dinged up; they could possibly be a more favorable match-up. The Oilers – comes down to whether the Kesler line can completely shut down McDavid; because of that – getting wins in Edmonton might be tough. I like the defensive match-up there though – provided we can get a healthy Lindholm and Vatanen back. The Flames are an enigma. Right now they are red-hot but they are also young. Their defense is a lot better than Edmonton’s and their offence more balanced – again the Kesler line would need to shut down Goudreau – not to mention the depth in goal. Overall if I had to rank them I would probably rather face Edmonton, San Jose then Calgary. As Felix said – the prospect of having to shutdown McDavid vs Calgaries overall deeper team is definitely the lesser of two evils here. The Sharks are the Sharks, the Ducks seem to raise their game against them in the playoffs and it’s been a while since we have had a Battle of California (sorry Kings).

Question 5: What’s your prediction for Thursday night’s game against the ‘Hawks?

Next: Chicago Blackhawks Artemi Panarin Hot, Team’s Mental Focus Not

JB: A casual look over the Hawks schedule shows me a trend of the Hawks taking games over already playoff bound opponents and dropping decisions over not-yet clinched hungry teams. The most recent meeting ending in a shutout win for the Ducks at the United Center has me cautiously optimistic but I have to err on the side of “the Hawks are an unstoppable force so near to the playoffs” and probably call this one a close Chicago win either in OT or with a tie-break midway through the third. On the bright side, at least we won’t hear any Chelsea Dagger!

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