Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Chicago Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Note: Fans can re-watch this instant classic today at 3:30 pm on Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Coming into this year’s Western Conference Final series in the NHL, many experts, including yours truly, expected to be a long hard fought series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks.
Game 2 lived up to be an instant classic won 3-2 by the Hawks in what wound up being the franchise’s longest game in history as the Hawks played their longest game in franchise history winning the contest in triple overtime courtesy of Marcus Kruger and leaving Southern California with a much needed split.
One of my keys to this series was the Hawks penalty kill versus the Ducks power play and the Hawks capitalizing with their man advantage. Through the opening two games, the Ducks are combined 0 for 8 with their man advantage while Hawks power play finally woke up in Game 2, scoring twice out of five chances and 2 for 6 overall.
Unsung heroes emerge come playoff time and while Marcus Kruger added his name into the history books in Game 2, I pointed out that Brad Richards, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell had to step scoring wise to help out Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
Richards scored the only goal in Game 1, Bickell — one assist in Game 2 along with 15 combined hits and Andrew Shaw netted home a power play goal in the opening moments of Game 2 and nearly ended the contest in the second overtime, but his goal was disallowed.
NHL Rule Book – Rule 78.5 – Disallowed Goals
“When the puck has been directed, batted or thrown into the net by an attacking player other than with a stick.”
Battle of the Stars
The superstar tandem for the Ducks — Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have a combined 3 points (2 assists) while the Hawks stars of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have a total of one point (Toews — 1 assist).
Give Ducks second line center Ryan Kessler a lot of credit for defending Toews all over the ice not allowing the captain any space on the ice disrupting the Hawks top scoring line. Kessler has a history with the Hawks going back to his days as a member of the Vancouver Canucks and with this series heading to the Windy City for Games 3 and 4 expect more of the same to come.
Anaheim’s physical play has taken a toll on a Hawks just a bit as the Ducks held the advantage hits (44-34 in Game 1 and 71-45 in Game 2) and with that also exposed the Hawks defense with their speed. With Michael Rozsival on the shelf for the rest of the playoffs, minutes have already piled up for Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya and Nkilas Hjalmarsson.
With rookie David Rundblad being exposed in Game 1 on the Hawks’ defensive line, a change was made for Game 2 with Kyle Cumisky inserted into the lineup. Fatigue is starting to show for the Hawks, but as this series goes along, expect much of the same with the added minutes for the hawks defensemen.
Both goaltenders — Corey Crawford for Chicago and Federik Anderson for Anaheim — have stood on their heads the entire series. While Anderson took command in Game 1, Crawford showed why he’s a Stanley Cup winning goalie in Game 2, making 60 saves in one of his most determined performances ever.
I must admit that I expected Andersen to look human in the first two games. It wasn’t the case as Anderson has answered the bell and has gained confidence despite the Game 2 loss. Crawford has carried the momentum from the second round series against the Wild and has kept the Hawks within striking distance with no end in sight anytime soon.
Defense has been the name of the game with blocked shots with Anaheim holding the edge with 61 combined while Hawks had a combined 38.
Key Series Stats
Goals Against: ANA (2.70, 20th in NHL); CHI (2.27, 2nd in NHL)
Penalty Kill: ANA (81.0, 15th); CHI (83.4, 10th)
Shot Attempts For: ANA (57.5, 11th); CHI (62.2, 2nd)
Shot Attempts Against: ANA (55.1, 14th); CHI (52.6, 6th)
Faceoff %: ANA (51.6, 9th); CHI (52.0, 5th)
What To Expect In Games 3 & 4
With the next two games at the United Center in Chicago, expect both teams to be a bit fatigued from the Game 2 triple overtime marathon.
The Hawks have to establish their offense game to combat the Ducks strong defense. With last change for the home team, expect the Hawks to put out favorable match-ups to counteract the Ducks physical style. Anaheim must take positives from the Game 2 loss and build on it and turnaround a power play that has been horrible through the first two games (0-8).
Will the Hawks take command of home ice in Chicago or will Anaheim return the favor and steal one at the UC? Buckle up hockey fans, the ride in this year’s Western Conference Final is just starting to heat up.
Hawks Playoff Leaders
Points: Patrick Kane (13)
Goals: Patrick Kane (7)
Assists: Duncan Keith (8)
Penalty Minutes: Andrew Shaw (34)
Goals Against Average: Scott Darling (2.22)
Game 3: Ducks at Blackhawks, Thursday (7 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 4: Ducks at Blackhawks, Saturday (7 p.m., NBC)
Game 5: Blackhawks at Ducks, Monday, May 25 (8 p.m., NBCSN)
*-Game 6: Ducks at Blackhawks, Wednesday, May 27 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
*-Game 7: Blackhawks at Ducks, Saturday, May 30 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
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