WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run
The Chicago Blackhawks are going back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in six years after defeating the Anaheim Ducks on the road 5-3 Saturday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
A year ago, the Los Angeles Kings were victorious on the road in a Game 7 WCF classic and the losing team in that situation has worked the entire year since at redeeming itself. That redemption occurred with a blazing offensive start and another gutty performance in net by Corey Crawford as the Hawks controlled things for most of the night in front of a stunned Honda Center crowd in Southern California.
After staving off elimination in Game 6 in Chicago on Wednesday, the question for the Hawks entering this deciding game was could they carry their newly-gained momentum on the road? The answer was yes and unlike their last game in Anaheim (Game 5), the Men in Red set the tone in the opening period. Captain Jonathan Toews kicked off the scoring for the Hawks with his eighth goal of the playoffs just 2 minutes 23 seconds into the first period, giving the road team an early 1-0 lead.
After a hooking call on the Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg put the home team at a disadvantage, the Hawks went to work on the power play and were rewarded courtesy of Toews again (11:55), with his second goal of the game as well as the Hawks’ second. Even though Anaheim held a 8-6 advantage with shots on goal, the general feeling was that the Hawks were taking total control of this contest, which included an 11-5 faceoff wins edge.
Chicago continued to pressure the Ducks throughout the second period and it paid off when Brandon Saad netted home his sixth goal of the playoffs (1:18) off a sweet pass from Patrick Kane, giving the Hawks a 3-0 lead and allowing the first real thoughts of advancement sweep over the giddy Hawks faithful.
The onslaught continued as Marian Hossa made his presence known, tallying home his fifth goal of the playoffs (13:45) and the Hawks only seemed further on their way. In survival mode, the Ducks got a goal on the board courtesy of Ryan Kessler (18:51) in the waning moments of the second period and made the score 4-1. More output came from the Ducks into the start of the third period as Corey Perry scored his 10th goal of the playoffs (11:36), cutting the Hawks lead in half to 4-2.
After a hooking call on Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, the Hawks went back to work on their man advantage and Brent Seabrook delivered with insurance at 13:23, increasing the lead to 5-2. Anaheim responded with a power play goal from Matt Beleskey within the game’s final minute, by definition too little and too late. Crawford stood tall between the pipes and was magnificent stopping 35 of 38 shots while posting a .921 save percentage.
Crawford gave the Ducks no shot of creating multiple scoring chances and the defense for the Hawks should be commended for sticking to their game plan of not allowing the Ducks to set the tone offensively to start the game.
In his first ever Game 7, Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen looked like the magic he created early in his first playoff run had alluded him once and for all, he only collected 21 saves and posted a save percentage of .808 in the most important game of his career so far.
The first period performance for the Hawks summed up the night and series overall for Andersen as his confidence collapsed, dating back to Game 5 in the late stages of the third period when he was almost responsible for a comeback that could have helped end this series one game earlier.
Even though the Ducks pulled out an overtime win in Game 5, the Hawks had a bead on Andersen coming out that game and they took advantage of his soft spots in the deciding games, scoring a total of 14 goals between Games 5 thru 7.
Once again, the Ducks had a chance to close out on opponent when leading a series 3-2 and for the second consecutive season failed to do so, leaving experts to question their resolve in closing out a series. The Kings won last year’s Stanley Cup after defeating the Ducks in the second round after trailing 3-2, will a similar result this year take place for the Hawks?
CHI — Patrick Kane with 3 assists
CHI — Duncan Keith and Brad Richards with 2 assists each
CHI — 2 for 4 on the power play
ANA — Ryan Getzlaf with one assist
ANA — Held a 37-15 advantage in hits
CHI — Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell combined for 0 points
ANA — 14 giveaways
ANA — Ryan Kessler with a 45 percent faceoff percentage
Standouts — Games 6 and 7
Duncan Keith — 5 assists
Jonathan Toews — 2 goals
Patrick Kane — A goal and 4 assists
As the old saying goes, big-time players step up in big-time games, and for the Hawks a Big Three emerged once again and made the lasting difference in an overly competitive series.
Corey Crawford In Elimination Games
11-3 record, 2.228 Goals Against Average and .922 save percentage.
Your goaltender is suppose to be your last line of defense, in elimination games Corey Crawford has made a name for himself as a goalie to relie on the big stage. The proof is on paper and the numbers don’t lie, neither do the results.
What Did We Learn From This Series?
Soon as you think you have the Hawks down for the count, they come back fighting back, hard as ever, never giving up. It showed in the last half of this series in Games 4 thru 7.
Anaheim’s approach to stopping the Hawks with their physical play worked in this series’ first half of the series, but as the series progressed the Ducks just weren’t physically able to keep up their intensity and as fatigue set in they turned to committing dumb penalties in crucial moments, allowing the Hawks power play to emerge as a factor.
Although the Hawks are not a physical team by any stretch of the imagination, staying patient and playing their up tempo style will win them series more times than not. The third line for the Hawks — Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen — were consistent throughout the series and helped lead Chicago’s output until superstars Kane and Toews showed up in the final two games of the series to close out the Ducks.
Last but not least, if the Hawks offensive game is clicking on all cylinders, any goaltender stands to look subhuman at best in net.
The Hawks open up the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals on the road in Tampa against the Lightning on Wednesday, they are 5-4 on the road in this year’s playoffs.
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio and Sidney Brown on Twitter @sidkid80