The Ducks shouldn’t hit the panic button

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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.

They have a ton of cap space

According to General Fanager (a great Cap Geek supplement), the Ducks have about $17.6 million in cap space as of this moment.

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

source: AP
Via AP

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.

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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

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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.

Video: Toews, ‘Hawks strike first in Game 7

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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.

Ducks juggle lines ahead of Game 7

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The Anaheim Ducks did a bit of line juggling during the team’s morning skate at the Honda Center on Saturday.

After sitting out Game 6, it appears Tomas Fleischmann will enter the Ducks’ lineup tonight in place of Emerson Etem. The 31-year-old practiced on the team’s fourth line with Kyle Palmieri and Rickard Rakell.

Ducks’ coach Bruce Boudreau has a history with Fleischmann, which dates back to when the two were with the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

“There’s a real good chance that he’s in,” said Boudreau. “I just think an experienced guy, he’s been through these wars, he’s played in Game 7s, he’s been in championship games.

“When I was with Hershey, it was a while ago, but he was the MVP in the playoffs. So he knows what to do in these situations.”

Fleischmann played 10:19 in Game 5 after sitting out four games as a healthy scratch.

In five playoff games this spring, Fleischmann has one assist.

With Palmieri on the fourth line, Jiri Sekac moves up to the Ducks’ third line along side Nate Thompson and Andrew Cogliano. Sekac has a plus-1 rating and two penalty minutes while averaging 11:14 in ice time in six games this spring.

Puck drop tonight is at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Boudreau mulls line changes ahead of Game 7

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Though he wouldn’t commit to anything, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau is contemplaing mixing up his bottom-six forward group for tomorrow’s Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago.

Right winger Kyle Palmieri — who has spent most of this series on a line with Andrew Cogliano and Nate Thompson — was replaced by Jiri Sekac on the third line, moving Palmieri onto the fourth with Rickard Rakell and Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann had taken the place of Emerson Etem on the bottom line, which has happened on a few occasions this postseason (including Game 5 of this series).

The moves were a chemistry test, according to Boudreau, who suggested he might use these new units as Anaheim looks to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in eight years.

“I wanted to see it in practice today,” Boudreau said, per NHL.com. “We tried that a little bit. I wanted to make sure that if that’s the route we’re going to go, then I wanted to see if they at least had sort of some good chemistry together. We talked about it and we’ll talk about it again [Saturday] morning.

“By no means are those set in stone, those lines today.”