Plenty has been made about the Anaheim Ducks’ bigger bodies and perceived superior depth allowing them to grind down the Chicago Blackhawks. Still, it’s not as if playoff hockey is a walk in the park for the Ducks, either.
“I think it goes both ways,” Bryan Bickell said. “They are wearing us down, but they’re getting tired from wearing us down.”
That must be true, especially since both teams played a similar amount of games heading into this series.
Sure, laying on the body can grind down an opponent, but the team delivering a lopsided amount of hits traditionally finds itself chasing the puck more than their “victims.” With that, less puck possession can often mean being forced to block more shots.
Whatever the cause may be, it’s clear that the Ducks are blocking a lot of Blackhawks shot attempts. Here’s the game-by-game count:
Game 1: Ducks blocked shots:22 Blackhawks blocked shots:9
Game 2: Ducks:35 ‘Hawks:29
Game 3: Ducks:27 ‘Hawks:9
Game 4: Ducks:34 ‘Hawks:20
Through four games, the Ducks have blocked 118 shots compared to just 67 for the Blackhawks. Anaheim has generated a 220-158 hit advantage so far … is that a wash, then?
This is not to say that postseason hockey is any less of a grind. Instead, the point seems clear: both teams are ending up with plenty of bruises.
Last night, the Chicago Blackhawks showed their resiliency in becoming the first team to win four multiple-overtime games in a single postseason. The Anaheim Ducks seem to believe that they can grind Chicago down, though.
“No human can withstand that many hits,” Kesler said.
With some help from a stat tweeted out by the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott, it looks as though the Ducks have generated a lopsided hit differential of 220-158 (Game 4 was pretty even, as Anaheim delivered 60 to Chicago’s 50 hits).
Combine the sheer body contact with the fact that the Blackhawks are needing to lean on top players more than the Ducks – one can debate how stark the difference is, as Joel Quenneville certainly has – and one can see where Kesler & Co. are coming from. Especially when you consider how many lengthy playoff runs the Blackhawks have been through in recent years. Perhaps that mileage adds up?
Of course, it’s also true that this isn’t Chicago’s first rodeo. The Blackhawks are accustomed to the challenges of the postseason, so perhaps the Ducks’ aggressiveness doesn’t make the sort of impact that Kesler may believe.
Ultimately, we’ll have to see how this series progresses, as hindsight may tell which side is “correct.”
After going without a goal, and held to only one assist, through the first three games of the Western Conference Final, Jonathan Toews finally scored for the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
And what a beauty it was, as Toews showed plenty of patience as he roofed the puck over a sprawled Frederik Andersen. That gave the Blackhawks the lead in the third period. They would cough it up, allowing three Anaheim goals in 37 seconds, before coming back and winning in double overtime to even the series.
The pressure had been mounting on Chicago’s top forwards.
Toews has had to go up against Ryan Kesler throughout this series, with the two jousting and slashing and chirping during various moments in Game 4. His line that includes Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad had some dominant shifts, too, and was rewarded in the third period.
“I kind of feel that pressure all the time. I know it’s there. Most of it I put on myself. Just in some ways got to stay patient and not show any frustration or show any sign of anything snowballing in the wrong direction for my own game,” Toews told reporters.
“I think as a line with Hoss and Saad, we generated a lot. Finally got a bounce. That’s what I was waiting for. Made a difference in the game. Hopefully can continue that confidence that scoring gives you. Continue to make big plays. Whether on the goal score, contributing on the play, whatever the situation might be, you know, to try to get our team on the board, but be responsible on the defensive side, as well.”
Vermette scored the winner at 5:37 of the second overtime, pushing the Blackhawks to a 5-4 victory in a thriller against the Anaheim Ducks that evens the Western Conference Final at two games apiece.
Head coach Joel Quenneville explained that his decision to remove Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen on Thursday was to get some “fresh legs” in the lineup.
Back on the ice Saturday, Teravainen contributed an assist on the winner in 18:07 of ice time. But Vermette came through with a huge goal for the Blackhawks, and his second of the post-season, ensuring this series goes a minimum of six games.
Via @EliasSports: @NHLBlackhawks are the first team in NHL history to win 4 games in a single postseason that required at least 2 overtimes.
It also capped off a thoroughly entertaining game that saw six goals scored in 10 minutes in the third period.
The two teams entered the third period tied 1-1. Jonathan Toews, with his first of the series, and Brent Seabrook scored to give Chicago a two-goal lead on home ice. But the Ducks, masters of third-period comebacks in these playoffs, scored three times in 37 seconds to take back the lead in stunning fashion.
Patrick Kane scored on a power play, which had been an area the Blackhawks had struggled in during this series, jamming the puck by Frederik Andersen to eventually send this game to overtime.
The Chicago Blackhawks were outshot 17-5 in the first overtime in Game 4, but had two golden chances to win it and even the Western Conference Final with the Anaheim Ducks at two games apiece.
The first came on a scramble in the Anaheim crease, as Andrew Shaw hit the cross bar on a rebound opportunity to the right of Frederik Andersen. Credit Hampus Lindholm for immediately clearing the puck out of harm’s way, with Jonathan Toews looking at an open net.
And then there was Patrick Sharp, on a breakaway late in the extra period. Sent in all alone, he was unable to beat Andersen on the glove side.