The numbers argue that the Chicago Blackhawks leaned heavily on their top defensemen in a 4-1 Game 1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan Kesler indicates that the Ducks plan on taking advantage of that fact.
When asked about the situation – David Rundblad had a rough afternoon, Kimmo Timonen received less than six minutes of ice time – Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville was his typically terse self.
While that bottom pairing was scarce, Duncan Keith received 28:25 minutes of ice time and Brent Seabrook registered almost 27 minutes. That’s not much of a departure for Keith (he actually logged more ice time in each of the last three games against Minnesota), it was a two-minute boost for Seabrook.
However valid the questions may be, it’s clear that the Ducks hope to swing this situation – and their perceived deeper pool of options on D – to their advantage, as Kesler told the Chicago Sun-Times Mark Lazerus:
“When you get guys playing a ton of minutes, it’s gonna wear them down,” Kesler said. “We’ve got to invest in them physically.”
That’s an interesting bit of phrasing, huh?
The good news for Chicago is that they avoided much wear-and-tear in the second round thanks to a sweep of the Minnesota Wild. They’re also used to the rigors of the postseason, although injuries do provide questions about their defense beyond a strong top four.
It’s certainly a situation to watch, especially if the Blackhawks make this another battle, as they seem to expect.
Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen exuded confidence in a 4-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 on Sunday. He certainly didn’t seem to lose that swagger afterward, either, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus notes.
“Everyone in this room knows we can beat this team,” Andersen said.
Hey, when you make 32 saves (including plenty of challenging ones) in a big win like Andersen did, you probably earned a moment like this.
Ryan Kesler seconded him.
Bruce Boudreau likely enjoyed the result of a 1-0 series lead, yet he admits that the Ducks have room for improvement after Game 1.
The feeling was that Chicago dominated much of the contest, at least until the Ducks went into their “finding another gear in the third period” routine. Perhaps things were a little closer than they seemed, though?
Either way, the Ducks aim to hold serve at home by taking a 2-0 series lead on Tuesday. If nothing else, it sounds like Andersen isn’t shrinking from the spotlight.
Some consider Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen a “question mark” as the team finally tries to make good on regular-season dominance. In Game 1 of the 2015 Western Conference Final, Andersen was instead the difference-maker.
Chicago carried the play for the first two periods on Sunday, generating a 25-15 shot advantage through the first 40 minutes of the contest.
Andersen was on top of the action, making 32 saves and only allowing a Brad Richards goal off a turnover all night.
He made some big saves, including this sensational stick stop on Patrick Kane:
Anaheim took a 2-1 lead into the final frame, and people made mention of how great the Ducks are at closing out games:
That certainly held true on Sunday (you can bump that playoff stat to 4-1 now), as the Ducks survived two straight penalty calls, generated a 12-8 shot edge and scored two tallies to end any threat of a Blackhawks comeback.
It’s getting tougher and tougher to doubt the Ducks as genuine contenders, as they now have a 1-0 series lead and a 9-1 record in this postseason.
They also proved that they can beat Chicago at the Duck Pond:
The Blackhawks have to be frustrated to see some dominant play go to waste, although the biggest headache might be their defensive imbalance. Michal Rozsival’s absence is being felt, as David Rundblad had a rough game and Kimmo Timonen barely played (5:15 TOI).
Still, just about every team sees some flaws in the salary cap era. It’s just one game, and the Blackhawks have been through just about everything over the last several years.
Blackhawks’ sniper Patrick Kane had the game’s first quality scoring chance early in the first period.
The 26-year-old, who has seven goals and 13 points in 10 playoff games, capitalized on a Ryan Getzlaf turnover, but Frederik Andersen bailed his captain out with an incredible stick save.
Have a look:
Hampus Lindholm has since given the Ducks a 1-0 lead with his second goal of the playoffs.
The Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks will meet in the postseason for the first time when puck drops on Game 1 of the Western Conference Final this afternoon.
The Blackhawks are in their fifth conference finals in seven seasons and are playing the Western Conference Final in Southern California for the third straight year. Chicago split the previous two conference finals with the L.A. Kings – the winner went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Ducks have not been to the conference finals since winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2007.
Puck drop this afternoon is at 3 p.m. ET. You can watch the game on NBC and also by following NBC’s Live Stream via the link below:
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:
Kesler, Toews set to renew rivalry
Ducks have embraced hard practices as long layoff nears end
Crawford ‘feeling pretty good’ after slow start to playoffs