05/17/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
And then there were two.
The Ducks and Blackhawks have persevered through a tough field of contenders to find themselves on the cusp on the Stanley Cup Finals. They're now faced with the unenviable task of trying to tackle one another in a showdown of epic proportions.
How They Got Here:
Anaheim defeated Winnipeg 4 to 0, defeated Calgary 4 to 1
Chicago defeated Nashville 4 to 2, defeated Minnesota 4 to 0
Two teams with two of the best one/two punch scoring duos will square off in the NHL's Western Conference Finals. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews lead Chicago, while Anaheim is led by the duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Both teams have scoring depth. Both teams have had a fairly easy time dispatching their opponents through the first two rounds. And both teams goaltending has some question marks associated with it. This matchup has the potential to be one of the better playoff series in recent NHL history.
The Conference Finals are a familiar place for Chicago, as the Blackhawks are making their 5th appearance in the past 7 seasons. They've also won the Stanley Cup twice in the past 5 seasons, defeating Philadelphia in 2010 and Boston in 2013. Anaheim is back in the Conference Finals for the first time since 2007, which is the year the Ducks won their only Stanley Cup by defeating Ottawa. The Ducks also reached the Finals in 2003, when they lost to New Jersey.
The top playoff scorers will be going head to head in this matchup. That coupled with what at times has been shaky goaltending on each side, and both teams having mobile defensemen who can create offense, could mean some high scoring games between these two. Anaheim's Corey Perry leads the playoffs with 15 points in just 9 games. The Blackhawks Patrick Kane is second in playoff scoring with 13 points in 10 games. Tied for 3rd in playoff scoring is the Ducks Ryan Getzlaf, who has 12 points. Both Kane and Perry are tied for 2nd in playoff goal scoring with 7 each. Getzlaf leads the playoffs with 10 assists, while Perry and Chicago's Duncan Keith are tied for 2nd behind him 8 assists each. The Ducks Jakob Silfverberg has netted 11 points (3G/8A) so far this post season while Ryan Keslar has posted 9 points (4G/5A). Behind Kane for the Blackhawks are Jonathan Toews with 11 points (4G/7A), Keith with 10 points (2G/8A), and Patrick Sharp with 9 points (4G/5A).
In goal, Anaheim has depended on Frederik Andersen after it wasn't clear if Andersen or John Gibson would get the call in the playoffs. Andersen has played all 9 games for the Ducks, posting a 1.96 goals against average, .925 save percentage and 1 shutout so far. In the Blackhawks net, things have been a bit more turbulent. Starter Corey Crawford was pulled in Game 1 of the Nashville series, and backup Scott Darling came through with a big performance helping the Blackhawks get the win. Darling started the remainder of the series, but Crawford came on in relief in Game 6 and helped the Blackhawks win the elimination game over the Predators. Crawford started all 4 games versus Minnesota, and posted a shutout in Game 3. The question mark for Chicago is if the Ducks get to Crawford early, will Darling be back in the net? Crawford has a 2.60 GAA and a .916 save percentage. Darling's GAA sits at 2.21 and his save percentage is .936.
The key to this series will likely be the special teams play. Anaheim's power play has been the best in the post season so far, clicking at 31% by scoring on 9 of their 29 man advantage opportunities. That could pose a problem for Chicago, who's penalty kill has had only a 72.7% success rate. The Blackhawks power play though has been impressive, clicking at a 20% rate.
The only news on the injury front is the Blackhawks will be without defenseman Michal Rosival for the rest of the playoffs. Rosival broke his ankle in the series clinching Game 4 against Minnesota. David Rundbland is expected to take his place in the lineup. For Rundbland, it will be the first playoff action of his career.
Chicago won 2 of the 3 regular season meetings between the teams. This will mark the first time these franchises have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well.
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