Ryan Dadoun

150531-Boudreau

Despite getting further than ever before, big game letdowns continue to haunt Boudreau

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“It’s a relief that I won’t get asked that question anymore. I’m sure now it will be, ‘Well, you’ve never been to the Cup Final.’”

That was Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau talking after reaching the Western Conference Final for the first time in his career. On the one hand, he hit the nail on the head. He killed the narrative about how he’s never been to the Conference Final and that’s merely shifted the discussion to a higher round. If he finds that unfair then perhaps he has cause to, but at the same time, he has a story of missed opportunities that is literally unparalleled in NHL history.

He has lost six Game 7s in his career, which is something no other head coach from past or present can claim, per Sportsnet. There are only two teams in NHL history to lose at home in Game 7s in three straight seasons: the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, according to ESPN. In both cases Boudreau was at the helm. Keep in mind that the home team has a 94-67 all-time record in Game 7s, including Chicago’s 5-3 victory tonight.

At best, Boudreau has been unlucky to the point of being a significant statistical anomaly. At worst, he’s the link the correlation suggests he is. Either way, it’s tremendously unfortunate because his teams have been terrific most of the time. His 363-167-69 regular season record gives him the best points percentage of any coach that’s led at least 500 games. Scotty Bowman ranks second on that list.

“I’ve gained an appreciation for how hard it is … I thought we had a good chance to get to the dance, but we didn’t make it,” Boudreau said after his latest setback, per the Ducks’ Twitter feed.

“Sometimes things just don’t work out,” he added. “They care so much, they’re gonna feel it for a long time.”

If there is a consolation it’s that the Ducks under Boudreau have made progress, even if it’s been painful. In 2014 they won their first playoff series since 2009. This year they made it to the Conference Final for the first time since 2007. They don’t have much further to left to climb in order to achieve their goal.

Perhaps Anaheim will bounce right back next year and win the championship. Then the story about Boudreau will be one of a man that came so close so many times finally being rewarded for his persistence and efforts. For now though, the narrative isn’t nearly so pleasant.

Here’s your 2015 Stanley Cup Final schedule

Steven Stamkos, Bill Daly
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After winning their respective Conference Final Game 7s, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks will play in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

The series will begin on Wednesday in Tampa Bay and can extend as late as June 17. Below is the complete schedule (all times are in ET):

Wednesday June 3 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
Saturday June 6 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 7:15 p.m. on NBC
Monday June 8 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBCSN
Wednesday June 10 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBCSN
*Saturday June 13 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
*Monday June 15 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
*Wednesday June 17 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
* if necessary

This will be Tampa Bay’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since the Lightning won the championship in 2004. By contrast Chicago has made it this far three times in the last six years. This series also has the potential to produce some high scoring games as there’s no shortage as this series will feature Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, and Steven Stamkos on Tampa Bay’s side as well as Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp.

Coach Q: Kruger, Bickell ‘should be fine’

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17: Bryan Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks plays against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 17, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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Chicago’s going to the Stanley Cup Final after earning a 5-3 victory over Anaheim tonight, but there were concerns that Marcus Kruger and Bryan Bickell might have been hurt in the process.

While injury information is scarce in the playoffs, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville did say after the game that both of them “should be fine,” per CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.

Bickell logged 4:12 minutes in the first period, but was limited to just one 10 second shift in the second frame and didn’t play at all on the third. He remained on the bench though, leaving it up to debate as to whether or not he was hurt.

They might not be counted among the Blackhawks’ star players, but their depth in terms of forwards is part of what makes them effective. Their defense was tested in this series due to the loss of Michal Rozsival (ankle). We’ll see if that proves to be the extent of their serious injury issues going forward.

‘Hawks rise to occasion in Game 7, head to SCF for third time in six years

150530-Blackhawks-win
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Who knows what the future will bring for the Chicago Blackhawks. They have some serious cap concerns going into the summer that will force them to make hard choices, albeit not for the first time in recent memory, and who knows how many more times 36-year-old Marian Hossa can rise to the occasion in the playoffs. Perhaps this will prove to be the final days of an era for Chicago, but thanks to their 5-3 victory tonight, it’s certainly not over yet.

WATCH: Full replay of Game 7

The story of the Blackhawks’ glory years is still being written and they’re making it hard to find ways to oversell them. At a time in the NHL where the salary cap has ended the likelihood of us ever seeing another dynasty in the traditional sense, Chicago will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in six years.

It’s the usual suspects getting them there. Captain Jonathan Toews set the tone of this game with his two early goals. Patrick Kane registered three assists, giving him 111 points in 110 games. Kane is just one of 20 players to average at least a point-per-game in a minimum of 100 postseason contests, per Sportsnet.

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford came up big as well. His shaky start to the playoffs now a distant memory, Crawford was arguably the difference in the second period as Anaheim launched 18 shots and Crawford turned aside all but one.

The winner though came from Hossa, which will likely be a sore point for Anaheim as the fact that the puck went off his skate made the marker controversial. Still, Anaheim didn’t lose by just one goal.

For the Ducks, this is the third year in a row that they’ve fallen in Game 7, but it was still a year of progress for them. They made it to the Western Conference Final after storming past Winnipeg and Calgary. They have the potential to come back next year and finally go the distance.

This year though belongs to the Blackhawks and Lightning. Both needed seven games to get past difficult opponents. Their battle will start on Wednesday.

Video: Hossa gets controversial Game 7 goal off his skate

Hossa goal
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The Anaheim Ducks did a far better job than Chicago when it came to getting the puck to the net in the second period of Game 7, but just one of those attempts beat netminder Corey Crawford. Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen is not having nearly as good of a game.

With Anaheim already down 3-0 late in the second period, Marian Hossa got another one by him, but this time the marker was controversial because it clearly went off of the Blackhawks forward’s skate. The only question is if it was a distinct kicking motion and after a review, the NHL ruled that it wasn’t.

You can judge it for yourself below:

Of course, this call would attract far more debate if Chicago didn’t already have a sizable lead and if Anaheim stages a comeback that comes up just short, then that will amplify the spotlight on this goal. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that very little has gone the Ducks’ way tonight and they are now in danger of seeing their tremendous effort in the Western Conference Final end with a whimper.