Ducks v Hawks. It’s on for the chance to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. If last night’s Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 win over the New York Rangers is any indication, tonight’s match should be another “Game Seven Hockey Heaven.”
The Anaheim Ducks can win. They could also lose. This series with the Chicago Blackhawks has gone back and forth, like two boxers going 15 rounds. The Ducks are at home which should give them a slight edge. The Honda Center will be loud and rocking. But, recent history is not on the side of the Ducks.
Anaheim has been ousted from the playoffs twice in game sevens at home. Ouch. And momentum may favour the Hawks after winning game six in regulation 5-2. The Ducks have to put that behind them and focus on one thing, winning tonight by playing their brand of tough, physical hockey.
They have proven they can win throughout their playoff run. The game six loss was their first in regulation. The Denver Post quoted Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. Speaking on the loss Getzlaf said,
“We’ve been through the experiences now. We have to use them the way we need to. That’s the biggest thing. I’ve always believed that you learn a lot from losing.”
The Ducks will have to have learned quickly if they want to beat the Blackhawks in game seven.
Between the pipes
Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen doesn’t get the splash in the media as much as his counterpart Corey Crawford. He has, however. been excellent in the playoffs. He has one shutout, a .919 save percentage and 2.18 goals-against average. Former player and goaltending coach for the Edmonton Oilers, Frederic Chabot told NHL.com that Andersen needs to just keep doing what he’s been doing. Chabot said,
“He needs to just keep doing what he has been doing; he needs to start strong again and I’m sure the boys in front of him are going to be better.”
The boys in front clearly had no answer for Chicago’s persistent attacking of the net in game six, and Andersen will definitely need them to be better.
On the other side, Corey Crawford has also played very well. He comes into game seven with a .918 save percentage and 2.53 goals against average. He too has one shutout in the playoffs. Chabot said of Crawford,
“On the other hand, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who I think has been the most consistent player for Chicago, had a really good game but also he had lots of help.”
Again, game seven will more than likely come down to which team can provide the best defensive cover for their goaltender.
“It started with me,” Getzlaf said. “I was terrible tonight and that’s on me. I’ve got to be better and calm our group down as we go.”
That may be a bit of an overstatement by the captain, but that’s what great team leaders do, they own it and try to come out better the next time.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, on the other hand, is upbeat. Toews said in the aforementioned Denver Post story,
“You try to will your way to the win. And given that passion we have in our team, we’re feeling pretty good about our chances.”
The tenacity with which the Blackhawks attacked the Ducks’ zone should give Toews reason to be positive. But, can they pull that off again in Anaheim or will the Ducks be ready and adjust?
The players are ready. For the Ducks, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, and crew with have to play fast and hard to keep Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and the other swarming Blackhawks out of Andersen’s face.
While Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was reported to have been mulling over a line change, the Blackhawks appear to be mixing up it a little bit themselves:
Whatever line combinations are formed, Ryan Kesler knows it comes down to desire:
#Kesler: I don't think it's about X's and O's anymore," "I think it's about who wants it more
— Sportsfeedia.com (@sportsfeedia) May 30, 2015
And this sums it up for all of us:
Dying in anticipation of the #Blackhawks game tonight 😍
— kt (@KatieEndres) May 30, 2015
We can’t wait either…game seven is hockey heaven.
Click here to read Mark’s recent article, “Stanley Cup Playoffs Smokes Other Sports”
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.