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.
The leading playoff scorer was back on the ice Friday, as Corey Perry returned to Anaheim Ducks practice after missing it on Tuesday and Thursday.
Perry, who leads all postseason skaters with 15 points through nine games, was shook up in the series-clinching Game 5 win over Calgary in Round 2, courtesy a collision with Flames forward Matt Stajan. Perry looked to be in serious discomfort on the play, but returned shortly afterward and went on to score the game-winner in OT.
There was some concern of a lingering ailment following the Stajan hit, but Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said he fully expects Perry to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, which will go at the Honda Center on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
The Colorado Avalanche have made an interesting signing — 24-year-old forward Andreas Martinsen, who spent the last three seasons playing in Germany.
Martinsen, who’s represented Norway internationally on a number of occasions, scored 18 goals and 41 points in 50 games for Dusseldorfer last year. His size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and physical play (team-high 99 penalty minutes) are what’s intriguing; in some ways, he’s not unlike another German League player to come to the NHL — David Wolf, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder that joined the Flames this season after racking up a league-high 152 PIM in 2013-14.
(Wolf, 25, appeared in three regular-season and one playoff game for Calgary this year. He did make a name for himself, though, by getting after Corey Perry in warmups prior to Game 2 of the Ducks series.)
This isn’t the first time the Avalanche have combed the European leagues for talent. Last year, the club signed Borna Rendulic out of the Finnish league, and he went on to become the first Croatian born and trained player to play in the NHL (appearing in 11 games all told.)
Corey Perry watch continues.
The L.A. Times reported on Thursday that Perry missed another Anaheim Ducks practice, however head coach Bruce Boudreau reiterated the point that he expects the veteran forward and playoff points leader to be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
Perry was hurt on a collision involving Calgary Flames forward Matt Stajan in Game 5 of that second round series.
“We have six days off, there’s no sense rushing him, I’m pretty sure he’ll be back on the ice [Friday],” Boudreau told the L.A. Times. “I have no indication that he’s not [going to be able to play].”
The latest Stanley Cup odds, courtesy online bookmaker Bovada:
New York Rangers — 2/1
Chicago Blackhawks — 11/5
Anaheim Ducks — 12/5
Tampa Bay Lightning — 19/4
Now, there’s always some smart guy who mentions it in the comments section, so we might as well beat him to the punch:
No, the odds aren’t always exactly what the oddsmakers believe to be 100-percent true. In this case, there’s possibly been a slight adjustment based on the size of New York’s fan base compared to, say, Tampa Bay’s. Generally, people like to bet on their favorite teams, and an Original Six team like the Rangers, in a big city like New York, has a lot of fans.
Then again, maybe Tampa Bay’s the long shot of the four because the oddsmakers just don’t think the Lightning have been very good in the playoffs. (Which they really haven’t been.)
Anyway, here are the Conn Smythe Trophy favorites:
Henrik Lundqvist — 4/1
Patrick Kane — 17/2
Corey Perry — 9/1
Jonathan Toews — 19/2