Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
via a press release from the NBC Sports Group...
STAMFORD, Conn. – May 29, 2015 – NBC Sports Group goes coast-to-coast this weekend to present two NHL Conference Final Game 7 showdowns in a 24-hour span tonight and tomorrow on NBCSN and NBC, respectively. Coverage begins tonight on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET, when Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
NBC presents live coverage of Game 7 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night in primetime at 8 p.m. ET, when Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks host Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks. NBC Sports Live Extra – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets – will provide streaming coverage of both Game 7s.
Three-time Emmy Award-winning play-by-play commentator and Sports Illustrated 2014 Media Person of the Year Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and analyst Eddie Olczyk, and Emmy Award-winning Inside-the-Glass analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call of both Game 7 matchups.
via Dave Hodge of TSN,
Next season, it'll be called a coach's challenge, and it is long overdue. Last night, it was a goalie's howl of protest, and it was of no use. I refer to Corey Crawford's legitimate complaint on Anaheim's second goal. A shot by Clayton Stoner that Crawford might have stopped beat the Chicago goalie because his catching glove was jarred by the aggressive moving screen of Ducks' forward Jacob Silfverberg.
It was undoubtedly hard for the referees to notice the contact, especially as it did not involve Crawford's body, but rather his equipment. Crawford could yell all he wanted and all he could get was sympathy. The coach's challenge would have made for an easy correction. Joel Quenneville, heeding Crawford's signal, would have challenged the goal based on goaltender interference and the Ducks' goal would have been wiped out. Lest you differ on that interpretation, no contact is allowed on Crawford as he sets up to make a save, never mind that he is reaching past the front edge of the crease, and never mind that Silfverberg isn't in the blue paint. Replay clearly showed a goal that shouldn't have counted.
Thumbs up when a rule finally exists that can get it right.
Watch the goal below...
from Jeff Miller of the OC Register,
Saturday? They have only everything on the line, or, as forward Patrick Maroon said, “It’s a best-of-1 now.”
Ducks fans, your team can talk all it wants about the comfort of having Game 7 at home, and the Ducks started reassuring themselves and anyone would listen of that fact immediately after this game was mercifully over.
But, honestly, I don’t think they can count on it helping them one bit, history supporting that notion. Home ice might even be a burden, particularly if they fall behind and the anxiety really starts to mount.
A loss Saturday would make it three consecutive playoffs in which the Ducks were eliminated in a Game 7 defeat at home.
No, Honda Center has not been the place for this team to rescue its season.
It also would mark three consecutive playoffs in which the Ducks were eliminated after leading the series in games, 3-2.
Consider that teams that win Game 5 of a series that was tied 2-2 historically go on to claim the series nearly 80 percent of the time. The Ducks, instead, are staring at the most hollow percentage of all – 0 – as in 0 for 3.
from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,
It has always fascinated this writer, why it is that at the biggest moments in sport, some players continually rise to the top. How the true greats raise their level with the importance of the game, year after year and huge game after huge game.
How Duncan Keith, who is the best player on the ice many times over the course of a National Hockey League season, never, ever fails to contend for that honour in a game like the one they played in Chicago last night. Or how Jonathan Toews can be well known as the most dangerous Blackhawk when the chips are down, yet still he scores meaningful goals with the goalie pulled and everybody watching him.
On Wednesday, in a Game 6 that Chicago absolutely had to have, they went out and took it. Their best players were, as the cliché goes, their best players. The champs fought back, and won 5-2, sending this epic series back to Anaheim, once and for all.
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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