Western Conference Finals: Hawks Make Another Stand, Force Ducks to Game 7

WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run

After the horrific ending to Game 5 in overtime at Anaheim, the Chicago Blackhawks faced elimination Wednesday night for the first time during this year’s playoffs, yet armed with the knowledge that under coach Joel Quenneville the Men in Red hold an 11-1 record in Game 6’s since 2009.

The Hawks dominated the game’s second period, holding on to the series’ trend of scoring first and winning the game, but Anaheim came with a desperate offensive rush in the last moments of the contest only to see the home team sealed the deal courtesy of Andrew Shaw scoring his second goal of the game on an empty net at 19 minutes, 11 seconds into the third period to complete a 5-2 victory.

Shaw was big throughout the third and the empty-netter came after a wild backhander that may go down as a playoff signature for Shawzy only a couple minutes earlier that halted the Ducks’ initial rally attempt.

The start of this contest saw Anaheim hold the edge in shots on goal (10-6) and blocked shots while the Hawks dominated the faceoff category in the first period, still nothing scoring-wise came from it on either side.

In the second period, the Hawks opened up the scoring and first up was Brandon Saad (8:23), who netted home his fifth goal of the playoffs, and second of the series, to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. Marian Hossa finally made his presence felt this series just over two minutes later, scoring his third goal of the playoffs (10:41) off a wrist shot, increasing the lead to 2-0.

Superstar Patrick Kane added to the hot scoring streak at 12:08 in the second, tallying home his 10th goal of the playoffs to give the Hawks a commanding 3-0 lead. I’m sure for many Hawks fans early plans for Game 7 were being made at this point but as Hawks TV voice Pat Foley would say, “NOT SO FAST!”

The Ducks closed out the second period with a much-needed goal courtesy of Patrick Maroon on the power play (14:13), gaining momentum for the final period that would be put to use when Anaheim struck just 1:57 into the final 20 minutes when defenseman Clayton Stoner scored his first goal of the playoffs off a slap shot. With Anaheim’s track record of being the best team in the playoffs in the third period, this game surely was going to come down to a battle in the trenches.

This time around the Hawks were much better defensively than in most of their third periods against Anaheim, getting sticks on pucks and clearing pucks out while not allowing the Ducks multiple scoring chances. Anaheim stayed true to its defensive style and held advantages in blocked shots (23-19) and hits (43-38) but it failed to generate any offense until late in the second period.

Meanwhile, Corey Crawford stood tall for the Hawks stopping 30 of 32 shots and posting a .938 save percentage.

Yes, Crawford has given up some bad goals as of late but when its time to make crucial saves at key moments, Crawford has delivered. On the other side, Frederik Andersen, as I predicted before this series began, has now started to look human.

It has taken a little bit longer than expected but the Hawks have taken advantage of Andersen — who’s not long on playoff experience — scoring a total of 13 goals in the last three games. Andersen collected only 18 saves and posted a .818 save percentage Wednesday night.

With meltdowns in Games 4 and 5 behind him, it has to weigh in now on Andersen’s head that the Hawks stars have stepped up and figured him out. The power play wasn’t much of a factor but it will be key for Game 7 on Saturday as the Ducks capitalized by going 1 for 3 while the Hawks were shut out (0-3).

The Hawks are now 31-0 when leading after two periods while the Ducks suffered their first regulation loss during this year’s playoffs.

Giving Props

ANA — Clayton Stoner led the Ducks with 6 hits.

CHI — Duncan Keith scored 3 assists.
CHI — Andrew Desjardins scored two assists.
CHI — Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette each score one assist.

Mishaps

ANA — Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kessler combined for 0 points.
ANA — 17 faceoff wins.

CHI — Neither Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell gained a point in Game 6.

A Look Ahead To Game 7

With an extra day of rest between Game 6 and 7, both teams should be rested and ready to go with their seasons on the line Saturday night.

Momentum can be tricky at times in the game of hockey but both teams here can make cases where they thought they had control of things only to see things eventually work against them — i.e. Anaheim after Games 1 and 3 and the Hawks after Games 2 and 4.

This game will come down to the battle of wills — the Hawks’ speed and skill versus the Ducks’ strong and physical style.  Goaltending will also be key as Corey Crawford has a slight edge with previous playoff experience while Frederik Andersen, even with a strong start to the series, has to feel unwanted pressure cracking around him in the last three games.

While the Hawks will try and reverse the nightmare of last year’s Game 7 home loss to the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings, the Anaheim Ducks have to carry some demons of their own after losing their last two Game 7’s at home (2014 — LA Kings, second round and 2013 — Detroit, first round).

Will the Hawks post a masterful performance on the road in a hostile environment or will the Ducks send the Chicago home with a Western Conference Finals series loss for a second consecutive year?

This year’s Western Conference Finals has surpassed last year’s Hawks/Kings series in pure drama with overtime periods galore, big saves and big goals in key moments. No matter who comes out on top, this series will be truly one of the best that has ever been played in the NHL.

MY PREDICTION: Hawks 3, Ducks 2

Series Leaders

Goals: Jonathan Toews (CHI) — 3
Points: Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) — 7
GAA: Frederik Andersen (ANA) — 2.45

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Listen to the D & Davis this Saturday on chicagolandsportsradio.com as yours truly will preview Game 7 of Hawks vs. Ducks with help from special guest Lauren Lapka of fansided.com (also a former update anchor of 87.7 FM, The Game in Chicago). TUNE IN!

Series Schedule

Game 7: Blackhawks at Ducks, Saturday, May 30 (7 p.m., NBC)

Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio and Sidney Brown on Twitter @sidkid80

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