Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Lance Pugmire of the LA Times,
Ryan Getzlaf painted his Ducks teammates into a corner by refusing to admit the Chicago Blackhawks were the better team after winning the Western Conference finals.
By not accepting that the Ducks were beaten by a superior franchise positioned to win its third Stanley Cup in six seasons, Getzlaf brings attention to why his team squandered a 3-2 playoff series lead and lost Game 7 at home for an unprecedented third consecutive season.
If the reason wasn't the Blackhawks' talent — center Jonathan Toews scored four goals in the last three games, defenseman Duncan Keith had five assists in the final two and forward Patrick Kane closed with a goal and four assists in Games 6 and 7 — then the focus shifts to why the Ducks shrink in hockey's most pressurized games....
After saying he played "terrible" with a minus-three rating in Game 6, Getzlaf was minus-one with two giveaways in Game 7 while right wing Corey Perry matched those figures with a late third-period goal that was answered less than two minutes later by the Blackhawks' dagger.
Perry declined to speak to reporters after the loss.
Getzlaf admitted of Game 6, "We weren't really mentally prepared to play that game," and lamented after Game 7, "they started stronger than us."
The question to both statements is why.
from Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette,
And in Toronto, former Ducks forward Smith-Pelly tweeted just this:
It was then that the ground opened up and the fires of hockey hell licked at his feet.
By 11 a.m. on Sunday, Smith-Pelly’s wordless, two-keystroke tweet had generated nearly 1,500 retweets and been favourited almost 1,900 times.
His Twitter mentions from Ducks fans, that is, comments tagged to the tweet, referenced his body size, many times; the couch on which he was watching the playoffs; his NHL future; and much, much worse.
“The worst one?” Smith-Pelly said with a laugh, repeating the question 12 hours after the skies had opened. “That I was too bad to be on a (crappy) team, that the Canadiens had lost in the second round. It was hilarious. I thought it was great.”
There’s some history here, of course.
Smith-Pelly, 22, was traded to the Canadiens in late February for forward Jiri Sekac; it was the Ducks who brought Smith-Pelly into the NHL in the second round of the 2010 entry draft, 42nd overall.
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,
It is hard to single out the one reputation that will take the most unmerciful beating after the Anaheim Ducks’ 5-3 capitulation to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference final Saturday night at Honda Center.
Will it be that of coach Bruce Boudreau, who now bears the unenviable distinction of having coached the only two teams in NHL history to lose home Game 7s in three straight postseasons --- and whose troops once again fell apart so inexplicably, so abysmally?
Will it be Ryan Getzlaf’s? The Ducks’ captain manfully took the blame for a lousy Game 6 … then was on the ice for the first three Chicago goals Saturday, losing Jonathan Toews on the first and a battle to Johnny Oduya on the third.
Or will it be that of the Orange County market itself, embodied by those lukewarm Ducks fans who weren’t passionate enough to snap up tickets to Game 7 of what had been an epic series, with a berth in the Stanley Cup on the line?
The first two, quite reasonably, will wear the responsibility for the loss. The Ducks had no answer for Toews.
from Mark Whicker of the LA Daily News,
from Jeff Miller of the OC Register,
It’s as difficult as one, two, three.
Three Game 7 losses.
Three Game 7 losses at home.
Three Game 7 losses at home in succession.
For the third time in three years, the Ducks’ postseason ended in front of their own fans, as Honda Center emptied of bodies just in time to fill with another wave of lingering, biting disappointment.
“You know, we took another step this year, going a round farther,” said captain Ryan Getzlaf, after the Ducks’ 5-3 loss to Chicago in the Western Conference finals. “But, ultimately, with Game 7, we gotta be able to finish.”
Now 0 for 3 in these challenges, this core group of Ducks has turned Game 7 into a don’t-and-die. They have no choice now but to wear that distinction as proudly as they’d wear a tattoo with a typo.
They just had a chance to change their dreadful recent history but instead fell behind before the game was 21/2 minutes old, trailed as badly as 4-0 and watched the Blackhawks continue to improve while they stood still.
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Oh, there are pretenders and challengers to the throne, and strategists and theorists forever concocting plans about how to get to that coveted spot at hockey's Olympus.
And then there are the Chicago Blackhawks.
And they stand alone.
With all due respect to the Los Angeles Kings, winners of two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 but who didn't even qualify for the playoffs this spring, and with all due respect to the rest of the crowd that nips at their skates, the Blackhawks continue to prove they are the standard-bearers not just for greatness, but for sustained greatness.
You can call it this era's version of a dynasty, but year in and year out, they are a team that is to be reckoned with. But it is now enough to simply say "the Blackhawks," and people will understand the message.
The Anaheim Ducks, the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, thought they had a plan to surpass the Blackhawks by punishing them physically and relying on their big, skilled, speedy lineup to seize this Western Conference finals.
And while it worked at times in what was a rollicking good series, it didn't work when it mattered most in Game 7 as the Blackhawks whipped Anaheim 5-3 to advance to their second Stanley Cup finals in three years.
Watch the game highlights below...
The puck drops just after 8:00pm ET in Anaheim and is on NBC, CBC and TVA.
The winner advances to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Discuss if you wish...
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau wondered aloud as he came to the podium Saturday morning for his press briefing: "How do you have any questions left after six games?" And the answer is simple, the only question left for the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks is who will win Game 7 and earn a berth in the Stanley Cup finals?
Here are some things to watch for in the finale of what has been a compelling series between two heavyweight Western Conference teams.
How close is this series?: Both teams have scored 19 goals. Each team has an identical power play success rate of 14 percent, although the Blackhawks have scored one more goal (3-2). Each team has won a game in the other’s team’s building. Both goaltenders, Corey Crawford and Frederik Andersen, have been almost identical in terms of save percentage (2.47 for Crawford and 2.45 for Andersen). Although there have been multiple lead changes, the team that has scored first has won each of the first six games.
The one area that separates the two -- and it’s been an ongoing storyline -- is the average ice time logged by Chicago’s top four defenders Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya is far greater than the more balanced ice time allotment Boudreau employs for Anaheim's six defenders.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
The man with the perpetual scowl and the personality drawn from cactus and shards of glass seems to have been built for this game.
Ryan Kesler was not just built for a Game 7 with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals hanging in the balance, but the Anaheim Ducks believe he was built specifically to help carry them through a game like Saturday's Western Conference finals finale.
No team -- especially teams like the Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, who have delivered six classic punch-counterpunch games -- will advance to the Stanley Cup finals because of one player.
The game is too fast, too complex; the lines separating success and failure too fine for it to be that simple.
But these games are the domain of the stars, the leaders, the players who do not shrink from challenge but grow large in the face of it.
A player like Ryan Kesler, perhaps?
"He is a force to be reckoned with when he's on his game," one team executive familiar with Kesler's evolution said.
from the CP at TSN,
After two weeks of brilliant, bruising hockey, Toews and Getzlaf don't plan to say much in the dressing rooms before the Blackhawks and Ducks meet for the conference title and a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.
Both captains believe their clubs need no extra motivation to conclude this remarkable series with a big finish.
"We've been through the experiences now," Getzlaf said Friday after a spirited Ducks practice. "We have to use them the way we need to. That's the biggest thing. I've always believed that you learn a lot from losing."
Both teams have lost three times apiece in these conference finals, alternating victories in a tense, well-played series. The Ducks have just one regulation loss in the entire post-season, but it was in Game 6, a 5-2 defeat that might have turned the series' momentum in the Blackhawks' favour heading back to Orange County.
"You try to will your way to the win," Toews said. "And given that passion we have in our team, we're feeling pretty good about our chances."
Both teams' recent history contains motivation and warnings when they face off to conclude a series already featuring six overtime periods and four one-goal games.
The Ducks' last two postseasons ended with a Game 7 loss at home, and they blew a 3-2 series lead both times. Anaheim is a three-time Pacific Division champion and one of the NHL's top teams ever since coach Bruce Boudreau took over in late 2011, but hasn't broken through into trophy territory.
"It's happened too often the last couple years," Ducks forward Corey Perry said. "But you win (Saturday) night, and people start talking about something different. We're not focused on the past. We're focused on (Saturday) night, starting something different. It's one game to go play for the Stanley Cup. It doesn't get any more exciting than that."
from Mark Whicker of the LA Daily News,
How do you beat Chicago?
Probably not by fixating on wearing out Chicago’s defense. Not at this point, with two days between Games 6 and 7. There was an unverified report that Duncan Keith used the extra time to run from Chicago to Anaheim, instead of flying. Maybe he didn’t, but he looked October-fresh when he bedeviled the Ducks in Game 6.
The Ducks’ chances rest on how many people they get in front of Corey Crawford, how few times they visit the penalty box, and how many faceoffs they win. As Boudreau said, a faceoff win will keep Quenneville from sending Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane over the boards on the fly, since he won’t be able to match Toews/Kane against the Getzlaf line on the road.
Crawford isn’t a statistical marvel. He was benched for Scott Darling in the first round. Blaming him for losses is the default queue in Chicago. And he doesn’t face many power plays.
But Crawford habitually makes memorable third-period saves, and he has little shot-blocking help. The distance between the Ducks and this win might be measured in the inches that separate Perry, Patrick Maroon and Matt Beleskey from Crawford.
Game 7s are funny. Wayne Gretzky had a great one in 1993. More recently, Patrice Bergeron and Henrik Lundqvist did. But often it’s Max Talbot or Sean Bergenheim or Joel Ward or Todd Marchant who takes over.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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