We were about 20 seconds away from having a pair of 3-0 series leads.
Instead, the Calgary Flames, like they always seem to at home late in 3rd periods, find another way to make an amazing comeback. Johnny Gaudreau streaks down the right-wing, and is somehow given room to attack. He makes no mistake, cleanly beating Freddie Andersen to tie it at 3, before Mikael Backlund ends it just over 4 minutes into overtime. In a flash, we have a series.
In the other series, the Chicago Blackhawks keep on rolling. A lone Patrick Kane tally is good enough to beat the Minnesota Wild for the 3rd straight time in their series. You kind of had the feeling that once Chicago got rolling after the Nashville series, that they would start their annual run in May and June. The Minnesota Wild are doing everything, but the most important thing. They can’t score goals.
We now take a closer look at the Western Conference playoffs. We attempt to determine if the following statements are fact, or fiction.
Playoffs Fact Or Fiction
1. The Calgary Flames will comeback and beat the Anaheim Ducks.
As great a comeback as it was, this is FICTION. The Ducks were just 20 seconds away from being up a commanding 3-0 in the series. The Ducks have been the better team throughout this series. With that said, how do you leave Johnny Hockey that open with the game on the line?
The problem for Calgary is twofold. First, they’ve been outplayed for most of this series. They were finally able to get something going in Game 3. It took being down 2-0 to finally make a stand. Anaheim, for the most part, has been able to answer most Calgary stands. The Flames are a different team at home, and could very easily win Game 4. This is where problem 2 comes in. There are 2 more games in Anaheim if the series goes the distance. Honda Center is a nightmare for the Flames. They have to find a way to win there if they have thoughts of getting to the Conference Final.
2. The Ducks need to worry about their goaltending situation moving forward.
This is FACT. If Game 3 did prove anything to us, it’s that Freddie Andersen is vulnerable. It may not hurt in this series, but when it comes time to face the Blackhawks if they both advance, this will be the storyline. Game 3 was the 1st blemish in Andersen’s armor this postseason. He has been great overall to this point. But the way the game ended, it could start to seep some doubt into the minds of the Ducks. He is a playoff newcomer. How will he handle the pressure of Game 4? We will find out a lot about Andersen in the coming days. If he doesn’t do well, how quick do the Ducks go to a healthier John Gibson?
3. The Minnesota Wild will win Game 4.
This is SCIENCE FICTION. The well for scoring goals has run dry at the wrong time for the Wild. The Blackhawks are the last team you want to face when you can’t score. It doesn’t matter how good your defense or goaltending is. You put up a 0 in the playoffs, you will lose. Are the Wild unlucky? Nope. Chicago is clearly the better team, up and down the lineup. They thrive in this environment. Some of the Wild players after Game 3 even mentioned that they panicked some and got away from Wild hockey. The Wild have a bright future, but Thursday will be their last night in this year’s playoffs.
4. Corey Crawford is the Achilles heel of the Blackhawks.
This too, is pure FICTION. Is he the best goalie in these playoffs? I’d say no. I’d rather have Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist. But Crawford is no slouch. Barry Melrose commented the other day that Crawford is the Achilles heel of the Blackhawks. Yes, he had a bad stretch against Nashville. Scott Darling came in and was spectacular in relief. But, the time came for Crawford to shine again. He handled the whole situation about as good as you could hope for. He is now playing his best hockey of the season. He has won a Cup. Does he have to win games 1-0? Nope. He just needs to steady the ship. That’s good enough for Chicago in these playoffs.
5. The Western Conference winner will lift the Stanley Cup this season.
Sorry Rangers, Capitals and Lightning fans. This is FACT. The 2 best teams in the league reside in Chicago and Anaheim. Chances are they will meet for the right to play for the Cup. What a fun series that will be. Any of the East teams can give the West a good shot. But at the end of the day, Chicago is the favorite. Anaheim could easily knock them off. But nobody in the East will beat these 2 teams, not this season. The Rangers and Capitals will have trouble scoring goals. The Lightning are about a year away. Ducks and Blackhawks could be a winner take all series.
What are your thoughts on the Western Conference playoffs? Am I right? Am I crazy? Feel free to leave your comments below. Are they fact or fiction?
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.