The Anaheim Ducks are widely seen as the underdogs going into the Western Conference Final, but if they are to top Chicago, perhaps it won’t be on the strength of their five-on-five play. Maybe it will come by dominating with the man advantage instead.
That’s been a big part of Anaheim’s early success as its converted on 31% of its power plays so far in the playoffs. That’s in stark contrast to the Ducks’ 15.7 power-play percentage in the regular season, but given that they feature Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, their recent success may be more than just a product of a small sample size. That seems to be Chicago’s view.
“They have a couple of really skilled individuals on that team and are really good at those short passes in front of the net, close to the net, and finding good passing lanes,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson told CSN Chicago. “It’s going to be a tough challenge but I think we came up with a couple of big kills against Minnesota. The overall total wasn’t what we wanted, but that’s definitely one area we can improve on. And we have to improve on it if we’re going to move forward to the next round.”
The other part of the equation is Chicago’s penalty kill, which as Hjalmarsson touched on, has left something to be desired overall. The Blackhawks have successfully killed just 72.7% of their penalties in the playoffs, which makes this matchup look all the more troubling for Chicago.
It’s definitely an area of their game that the Blackhawks will be tested on in this series, but coach Joel Quenneville has an obvious solution to minimize the potential impact: “Stay out of the box.”
We’ll see how successful Chicago is in that regard.
Thirteen. That’s the number of games the Anaheim Ducks have participated in since the start of April. In other words, they’ve had an off day nearly three-quarters of the time over that span.
That light schedule, brought on primarily thanks to their quick work of Winnipeg and Calgary, has been great for recovering from the wear and tear of the campaign and postseason, but it’s also hard to stay sharp when you’re not actually playing. Avoiding rust can be a challenge, but its one defenseman Cam Fowler feels they’ve met through intense practices.
“The big reason why we’ve had success is because how we’ve been practicing has carried over into the games,” Fowler said, per the team’s website. “That’s really important, especially when you have six or seven days off. It might be easy to sit back and relax for a second, but the good thing about our group is we continue to push each other in practice.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has noticed that too and praised the team’s determination, even compared to what Anaheim showed him in previous years.
“We’ve practiced a lot, and they’ve been hard practices, but these guys haven’t complained about it,” Boudreau said. “They’ve embraced the practices.”
It has to help that the Ducks are seeing results for their efforts. For the first time since 2007, Anaheim is in the Western Conference Final. The Chicago Blackhawks will likely prove to be more difficult than the Ducks’ previous opponents, but if Anaheim plays like it did in the first two rounds then this should be a good series.
Perry returns to Ducks practice after missing previous two
Kesler has ‘upped’ his game in the playoffs
Silfverberg’s playoff breakout is a big part of Ducks’ success
It’s been almost 11 full months since the Vancouver Canucks traded Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in a draft day blockbuster.
The Ducks are winning this trade.
The Canucks had a rebound season but it ended in disappointment with a first-round playoff loss to Calgary. The Ducks and the 30-year-old Kesler are in the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
With four wins in this round, the Ducks would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Should that happen, it would be Kesler’s second trip to the championship series in five years.
And he’s been a big part of the Ducks’ success this post-season, too.
From the Orange County Register:
Twenty goals and 27 assists were welcomed and appreciated over the 82-game schedule, but not the primary reason why Murray kept talking to Vancouver about acquiring him. He’s got four goals and five assists in the Ducks’ playoff games, but it’s more than that.
Kesler has been dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 63.7 percent of his draws. He’s an essential part of a penalty-killing unit that’s allowed only four power-play goals. And each of his scores has made a difference.
“There’s been a lot of moments like that,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Those are the things that probably stand out more for me than anybody scoring three goals or getting booed or any of those things.
“So far, what I’ve seen, he’s upped his game.”