Will these Anaheim Ducks ever cease to keep us on the very edge of our seats? In perhaps their most memorable win of the 2014-15 post season, the Ducks managed to push the Chicago Blackhawks to the brink of elimination thanks to the overtime heroics of none other (?) than Matt Beleskey. Sitting one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since George W. Bush was in office, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of this Anaheim team:
1. The Good
Let’s start with the good, and why not? That’s what happens when you’re 60 minutes away from reaching the Cup Final. The biggest story line of the Ducks’ season was their incredible dominance in one-goal games, which was highlighted by many a third period comeback.
No observer worth his salt would have predicted that Anaheim could maintain this in the playoffs, yet lo and behold, they kind of have! Their three goals in 37 seconds in game four was undoubtedly incredible, yet it’s almost what we’ve come to expect from them by now.
With their backs to the wall in game five, Anaheim was once again able to rattle off goals in clutch situations despite being heavily outplayed. These Ducks are clutch, and that matters in the playoffs.
2. The Bad
All right, time to sweep the confetti and kick out the marching band. It’s an alarming sign that the Ducks been heavily out shot-attempted through five games even though they currently lead the series.
Shot attempt numbers are barely needed though, as the Ducks have been visibly outplayed at even strength numerous times during this series. That could very well explain the slant in power plays in favor of the Blackhawks, which certainly hasn’t helped Anaheim’s chances either.
Their breakout has looked plainly anemic at times, and none more so than on Simon Despres’s turnover at the end of game five that could have nearly cost Anaheim the game. At times it seems that Bruce Boudreau has perfectly adjusted his team’s breakout, yet more often than not it seems like a chore for the Ducks to exit their zone. That has to improve even marginally for Anaheim to close out this series.
3. The Ugly
Frederik Andersen has absolutely stood on his head during these playoffs. He’s proved to many that he belongs among perhaps the ten best goaltenders in the league. He wasn’t anywhere near the level in game five though, blowing what should have been a comfortable first period lead on some very stoppable shots.
Granted, his team’s poor defensive play didn’t help. Yet two of the four goals were absolutely deflating, especially Jonathan Toews’s tying goal. Perhaps facing only three shots in the first period might have contributed to his apparent lack of focus, but the great goaltenders can always stay locked in no matter the box score.
Andersen needs to be better for the Ducks to close out his series, and he probably will be. The proficiency he’s displayed this post season suggests that he will rebound nicely in game six. In the playoffs however, there is no tomorrow, and Andersen must get it together immediately, something he as well as his teammates surely understand.