And so the Western Conference Finals are set. The Anaheim Ducks will take on the Chicago Blackhawks, a matchup that has never happened in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before.
For Anaheim, it will be their first appearance in the Conference Finals since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007. However, Chicago has become accustomed to being here, now in their third straight, and fifth of the past seven seasons of being in the Conference Finals. It’s sure to be an amazing series with some of the most talented players in the NHL and tons of physicality.
Let’s take a look at how each team got here, how they match up against each other, and who you can bet on the win the series.
Road to the Conference Finals
Anaheim has had, arguably, and easy road to this round. They rolled through the Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames in the first two rounds. Not to say those teams were poor, they each had plenty of fight in them, but they were definitely two of the lower teams in the playoffs both in overall talent, depth, and especially playoff experience. The Anaheim Ducks needed just 9 games to compile the 8 wins needed to get here.
The Ducks have been led offensively by Corey Perry, who leads the NHL with 15 points in 9 games. Behind him is Ryan Getzlaf, with 12 points in 9 games, Jakub Silfverberg has 11 points, and Ryan Kesler has 9. In net, Frederik Andersen has been fantastic for Anaheim, allowing just 1.96 goals per game so far while stopping 92.5% of the shots he’s faced.
The Ducks have come back from third period deficits to win the game five times this postseason, outscoring their opponents 17-4 past the first 40 minutes of their games.
Chicago, on the other hand, has made a fairly tough road look very easy thus far. They beat the surprise Nashville Predators in the first round in 5 games. Then, they swept the Minnesota Wild, who were looking unbeatable in the second half of the season. Both teams may not have had a star lineup comparable to Anaheim, but were certainly tough opponents. The Blackhawks have gone 8-2 in the first two rounds.
Chicago is led by the two superstars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Kane is second in league scoring with 13 points in 10 games. Toews has another 11 points in 10 games, Keith has 10 points, and Sharp has 9. After Scott Darling saved the day in the first round, Corey Crawford came back strong in the second round and has a 2.60 GAA and a .916 SV% total.
How They Matchup:
The Chicago Blackhawks went 2-1-0 against the Anaheim Ducks this year. Chcago Scored 8 goals, while Anaheim could only muster 3 of their own. The Blackhawks power play was 0-11 in the three games, while the Ducks went 1-6. Chcago outshot them by a total of 109-71.
Starting goalies, Corey Crawford went 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .957 SV% while Frederik Andersen was 0-2-0 with a 3.52 GAA and a .900 SV%.
Only six Anaheim players had points in the three games, with Perry having one and Getzlaf being held off the score sheet. For Chicago, Kane had 4 goal and 5 points in just 3 games, while Sharp chipped in 4 points in 2 games as well. Six players had two or more points.
Chicago Blawkhawks Stats: Anaheim Ducks Stats: Advantage:
2.68 Goals/Game 2.78 Goals/Game Anaheim Ducks
2.27 Goals Against/Game 2.70 Goals Against/Game Chicago Blackhawks
17.6% Powerplay 15.7% Powerplay Chicago Blackhawks
83.4% Penalty Kill 81.0% Penalty Kill Chicago Blackhawks
33.9 Shots/Game 30.0 Shots/Game Chicago Blackhawks
30.2 Shots Against/Game 28.9 Shots Against/Game Anaheim Ducks
543 SAT 174 SAT Chicago Blackhawks
287 SAT Behind 235 SAT Behind Chicago Blackhawks
4 SAT Ahead -103 SAT Ahead Chicago Blackhawks
As is evident, the Chicago Blackhawks hold the advantage in 7 of 9 major statistical categories. Putting together their head-to-head matches during this season and the advantages in team categories, it seems obvious that the Chicago Blackhawks should be the favourites in this 2015 Western Conference Finals.
Chicago Blackhawks in 6.
No doubt, this series will be much closer than the stats may suggest, after all, anything can happen in the playoffs. But, the Blackhawks simply have too much playoff experience and depth that far outweigh that of the Ducks. Both teams will get plenty of offensive help from the blueline. Of course their top two lines are excellent. But it will be the bottom six forwards that make the difference here, and Chicago’s are much better than Anaheim’s.
Who do you predict will win the 2015 Western Conference Finals?
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.