Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Chicago Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
Great goaltending, defensive clinics, superstars stepping up and another instant classic overtime finish.
WHAT MORE CAN YOU ASK FOR?
Well, Chicago Blackhawks fans had to have been asking for a win entering Saturday night, anything to keep the Hawks from going down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals against an Anaheim team that’s proved itself even more tougher and consistent than expected through the first four games.
Still, after another long and stressful night in this series, Antoine Vermette added his name that of the overtime playoff heroes for the Hawks after scoring Game 4’s game-winning goal in double overtime for the 5-4 victory to tie the series at 2-2 late Saturday night.
Games 3 and 4 in Chicago have displayed a little bit of everything — from Anaheim’s dominating performance in Game 3 to the Hawks resilience after blowing a 3-1 lead early in the third period of Game 4.
Special teams for the Hawks have been just about absent in this series, its low-lights including an 0 for 5 performance in Game 3 while registering just one shot, but this unit stepped up when it mattered most courtesy of Patrick Kane in the late stages of regulation in Game 4 to tie the score at 4-4 after Chicago found itself behind. The Hawks went 1 for 9 with their man advantage Saturday and for the series they stand at 3 for 17 while Anaheim tallied 1 of 3 power play chances in the two games in Chicago. A key stat for fans to remember — the team that has scored a power play goal has gone on to win each game in this series.
Duck Crossing (And Checking)
Anaheim’s aggressive and physical style has caused major problems for the Hawks, the Ducks have displayed a commitment to shot blocking and taking away space from the Hawks while not allowing them to operate offensively. The Ducks dominated the blocked shots category by 18 (27-9) in Game 3 and kept up the consistency in Game 4 (34-20).
Many experts have said that the way to slow the Hawks down is by punishing them physically and the Ducks have done the job, especially while playing with a lead, but the Hawks have also shown in the past that they too can play a defensive-oriented game even though they’re not thought of as a physical team.
The Ducks have defended the Hawks by design in crowding the middle of the ice and making the Hawks create plays coming out of their own zone. This philosophy usually makes the opponent play the dump-and-chase game, shooting the puck into the corners of the ice while making the defensemen work to get the puck.
Dump-and-chase is not suitable to the Hawks style and it helps Anaheim create turnovers, which lead to scoring chances. The Ducks have outworked the Hawks defensemen, and with Chicago playing shorthanded in that area, the Ducks have stepped up their physicality. While the Hawks have earned their two wins so far in this series, they have come with a major cost in regards to minutes tallied, which have pilled up in a big way for their defensive leaders.
Hawks Defense Ice Time (Games 2 & 4)
Duncan Keith: Game 2 (49:51); Game 4 (40:39)
Brent Seabrook: Game 2 (47:46); Game 4 (32:00)
Johnny Oduya: Game 2 (46:06); Game 4 (29:26)
Nkilas Hjalmarsson: Game 2 (47:35); Game 4 (39:13)
Superstars from both teams rose to the occasion in the Chicago games. Kane and Jonathan Toews combined for a total of 4 points in Games 3 and 4, including three goals and including Toews’ goal in Game 4 along with Kane’s power play goal to send the game into overtime. Let’s not forget Kane’s backhanded goal in stride to beat Frederik Anderson for Chicago’s lone score in the Game 3 loss.
Anaheim’s tandem of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have made their presence felt and tallied a combined 4 points (3 assists), including Getzlaf’s 2-assist performance in Anaheim’s Game 3 victory.
Along the way in Game 4, the Ducks made NHL history when they scored three consecutive goals in 37 seconds in the third period courtesy of Matt Beleskey, Ryan Kessler and Perry. Once again, the Ducks cannot keep up with the Hawks skating-wise, but they can put up goals at a rapid pace.
Fastest 3 Goals by One Team (Playoff History)
Toronto — 00:23 seconds (April 12, 1979 vs. Atlanta Flames)
Anaheim — 00:37 (5/23/15 vs. Chicago)
New York Rangers — 00:38 (4/12/86 vs. Philadelphia)
Colorado — 00:38 (4/18/01 vs. Vancouver)
Goaltending has been slightly one-sided in this series. Federik Andersen has helped carry the Ducks to this point and his performance in Game 3 was stellar in stopping 27 of 28 shots faced.
Lack of activity around the net from the Hawks has made Andersen’s job a little bit easier, but in Game 4 the Hawks were able to make Andersen look more human for at least one game. On the other side, Corey Crawford has made the big saves when needed even though the numbers don’t always show it.
Crawford collected 47 saves in the Game 4 double overtime win and stopped 17 shots in the first overtime alone to keep his team in the game. Defensive coverage breakdowns allowed the Hawks to give up goals in Games 3 and 4 and with multiple Ducks players in Corey’s face, what’s Crawford supposed to do? Hawks players must be responsible defensively going forward if they want to move onto the championship round.
The contributions of role players can be forgotten at times, especially during the playoffs. After being scratched in Game 3, Teuvo Teravainen was reinserted back into the lineup and continued his consistent play by contributing with a key assist and his third linemate Antoine Vermette — who was also scratched in Game 3 — came back with a vengeance by netting home the game-winning goal along with winning 70 percent of his face-offs. After going five games without scoring a goal, Brandon Saad reappeared as well by scoring a shorthanded goal Saturday and collecting two assists.
What To Look For In Game 5
With two epic overtime games played out in this series so far, fatigue has all but set in for both teams. Its taken its toll a little more clearly on the Hawks, especially with their top four defensemen. Anaheim, on the other hand, has the depth on their roster on survive, but they’ve also given up two overtime losses… will that take hold on them mentally?
The Hawks had a much better effort in the first half of Game 4 than in Game 3 and must put forth that kind effort early and often while staying away from lack of focus in crucial times late in games. The Ducks must start off strong offensively themselves if they want to send a message to Chicago coming off another big win. The team who has scored first in this series has gone on to win all four games and when Anaheim gets a lead they will clamp down defensively, making it harder on their opponent to come back.
Will the Hawks steal another game on the road? Or will the Ducks once again take advantage of home ice? Game 5 should be an interesting contest and perhaps as fans we will be lucky enough to experience another overtime classic!
Goals: Several with 1
Points: Ryan Getzlaf (ANA), 4
Goals Against: Frederik Andersen (ANA), 1.86
Game 5: Blackhawks at Ducks, Monday (8 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 6: Ducks at Blackhawks, Wednesday (7 p.m., NBCSN)
*-Game 7: Blackhawks at Ducks, Saturday, May 30 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
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