TAMPA — The tallest goalie in NHL history isn’t quite ready to call an end to the days of sub-six-foot netminders. However, he concedes there’s a reason smaller guys will have a tougher chance of making it.
“I don’t know if it’ll be the end of the era, but I think you see taller guys that can be just as athletic as the smaller guys,” said Tampa Bay’s 6-foot-7 starter, Ben Bishop. “It seems to be the way it’s trending here.
“You look at [Blackhawks backup Scott Darling], he’s 6-6, and that guy can move pretty well. You see bigger guys that can move just as well as the smaller guys, and that’s probably why teams have started going in that direction.”
Chicago’s starter, Corey Crawford, is no shrimp either, at 6-foot-2. In fact, of the four starters to reach the conference finals, Henrik Lundqvist was the shortest at a mere 6-foot-1. (Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen is listed at 6-foot-3.)
So, given the size of goalies today compared to the past, and given the drop in scoring compared to the past, what does Bishop think of the idea of making the nets bigger?
“Let’s make ‘em smaller,” he joked.
But then, more seriously: “I don’t know, I guess they could. It’s just going to lead more goals. A couple of games ago, we won 6-5. What do you want the scores to be? 12-10?”
After losing the Western Conference Final to the Chicago Blackhawks, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau’s record in Game 7s has dropped to 1-6. He’s the only head coach in NHL history with six Game 7 losses to his name and he has the unwanted distinction of leading the only two teams that have ever been eliminated at home in Game 7 for three consecutive years: the Washington Capitals and now Anaheim Ducks.
As previously mentioned, 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. As far as he’s concerned, he’s not the cause of those defeats.
“I got to believe that it isn’t (reflective of anything),” Boudreau said when the topic of his record in Game 7s was brought up during an interview with Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “People love to relay bad stats to people, but seven games have gone to a Game 7. I don’t win them and I don’t think I’m losing them.”
He also noted that he’s won Game 7s in the ECHL and AHL. “So it’s not a question of me, I think.”
He remains optimistic about the Ducks’ future. He likes the nucleus they already have and noted that the team is young with plenty of players that should be able to build off of this lengthy playoff run. This has been an important experience for 25-year-old goaltender Frederik Andersen in particular.
After having lost to Chicago, he feels that the Blackhawks’ experience was a big asset for them in this series. Going into 2015-16, Anaheim will be in a better position in that regard.
Losing on such a big stage in an ugly way obviously stings, but is the situation really that dire for the Anaheim Ducks?
On paper, Anaheim accomplished a lot in 2014-15, yet that’s not how many will depict the situation. Let’s not deny it, either; the optics weren’t pretty in another Game 7 loss.
Sportsnet correspondent Elliotte Friedman describes Boudreau’s relationship with Ducks GM Bob Murray as “strained.” Many fans feel like this is the last straw … and Murray may just end up agreeing.
Here’s the thing though: the Ducks’ future could be incredibly bright, even if you merely look past the situation with Boudreau. Let’s ponder a few reasons why Anaheim may just be primed for bigger and better things.
Key free agents such as Francois Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey are primed to eat up some of that excess, but few contenders are poised to have this much breathing room in the offseason. Could the Ducks gain from other contenders’ salary cap pain?
Their defense is both young and deep
As PHT’s Jason Brough also points out, the Ducks’ defense boasts an enviable array of young, promising defensemen.
Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Simon Despres are all 23. Hampus Lindholm is just 21.
Not many teams would enjoy the luxury of parking a (somewhat?) healthy James Wisniewski in the press box, but the Ducks did that this postseason. This defense could look downright scary in 2015-16.
Their goalies are cheap (and could get better)
The funny thing about the Ducks is that Frederik Andersen might not even be “their guy,” as John Gibson could very well have a brighter future. It’s conceivable that one or both of those netminders will play well in 2015-16.
In a league with big spending on goaltending, Anaheim enjoys the kind of flexibility that other teams can only dream of. Andersen and Gibson combine for about a $1.88 million cap hit next season with one year left on each of their deals. Murray could stick with both or decide to target a more experienced goalie via a trade or free agency.
Either way, it’s a pretty good problem to have, even if goaltending remains a perpetual question mark for the franchise.
Stars close to their primes
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are all 30 as of this writing. Maybe that isn’t “prime age,” but it’s close … and players like Jakob Silfverberg could make big jumps for all we know.
No doubt about it, this is a big offseason for the Ducks, but they’re in a prime position if you look at the bigger picture.
Video: Hossa gets controversial Game 7 goal off his skate
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:
This season GM's insisted on liberal & generous determination of "Distinct Kicking Motion" & stopping motion to direct puck into net. Goal!
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.
The team that scores first has won 73.8% of Game 7s in the NHL. Jonathan Toews wasted no time putting Chicago on the right side of history.
The Blackhawks captain parked himself in front of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and was quick to capitalize on a rebound opportunity from Niklas Hjalmarsson’s shot as you can see below:
Not that its out of the ordinary for him, but Toews has been very effective in this series. He came into tonight’s action with three goals and five points in the 2015 Western Conference Final. That includes his two late markers in Game 5, which dramatically forced overtime in what was ultimately still a missed opportunity for Chicago.
Patrick Kane also assisted on the goal, giving him 109 playoff points in 110 career games.