Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Eric Stephens and Rich Hammond of the OC Register,
After their 4-hour, 52-minute Game 2 victory Tuesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks stayed overnight in Southern California then flew home Wednesday morning. Not surprisingly, they skipped practice.
The question for the Blackhawks involves how well they will rebound from a physical standpoint in Game 3, particularly on defense. Duncan Keith played 49 minutes, 51 seconds, in Game 2. Brent Seabrook played 47:46, Niklas Hjalmarsson played 47:45 and Johnny Oduya played 46:06.
The Ducks’ Francois Beauchemin played 46:29, but no other Ducks defenseman topped 40 minutes.
“You just focus on the next game,” Hjalmarsson said. “Yeah, it was a lot of minutes, but we won the game and we’ll move on from there. Personally, I feel fine. I have no complaints.”
The Blackhawks have been here before. In the first round against Nashville, they won Game 1 in double overtime and Game 4 in triple overtime. The Blackhawks followed both long victories with losses, though.
“I think there’s a lot more left in the tank,” captain Jonathan Toews said, “and we’re excited to get back to home ice, to try to get (the Ducks) on their heels a little bit more and just find that excitement and jump and energy.”
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
So after all of that -- the head-butted goal that wasn’t, the 118 shots on goal, the 244 shot attempts, the cross bars and posts and glorious chances that literally numbered in the dozens through the course of 116 minutes, 12 seconds of delirious playoff hockey -- the question is: What comes after epic?
Because that’s what Game 2 of the Western Conference finals was right from the get-go when the Chicago Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on two power-play goals on through to the moment that Marcus Kruger somehow managed to knock down a Brent Seabrook point shot and then sweep it past Anaheim Ducks netminder Frederik Andersen at 16:12 of the third overtime.
A titanic tilt.
At its most basic, the Kruger goal -- one that came on just his second shot on goal -- gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 victory and tied this conference finals series at one game apiece.
There are still miles to go in this series before a winner is crowned. But it is impossible to dismiss this game as simply one in a series of possibly seven, with a berth the Stanley Cup finals on the line.
from Eric Stephens of the OC Register,
An epic playoff series needs a memorable contest to start earning that definition, and Game 2 of the Western Conference finals took care of that. The unheralded Marcus Kruger applied the dramatic ending.
A fourth-line grinder and penalty-killer by trade, Kruger put in a loose puck at 16:12 of the third overtime to cap the longest game in the 21-year-old history of Honda Center and lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Ducks and even the best-of-7 series.
An overflow crowd of 17,234 mostly decked in the Ducks' orange, black and white colors was left stunned when Kruger sent Chicago home with a series split, batting the puck past Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen after Andersen didn't make a clean stick save on a point shot by defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Kruger had just seven goals during the regular season and his other score in these playoffs came in Game 1 of the Blackhawks' second-round sweep of Minnesota. The checking center put himself in position for the winner, pulling his team even heading into Game 3 on Thursday in Chicago.
Watch the game highlights below...
The game starts around 9:15pm ET and is on NBCSN, CBC and TVA.,
The Ducks want to head to Chicago up 2-0 while the Blackhawks want to grab home ice advantage.
Feel free to discuss the game.
from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times,
The Blackhawks’ problem in Game 1 of the Western Conference final was a familiar one — the goalie was better than they were. And the solution is as old as hockey itself.
“I think we have to work for [goals],” captain Jonathan Toews said prior to Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night. “We’re going to have to play harder around the net and I think as everyone says, it’s always about traffic. It’s about making things difficult for a goaltender to see.”
As Toews noted, the Hawks have faced hot goaltenders many times in the playoffs and figured a way to get the job done. In the 2013 Western Conference final, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick came in off a big series against the Sharks — a 1.43 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. By the second period of Game 2 against the Hawks, Quick was on the bench after allowing four goals on 17 shots. The Hawks won the series in five games.
They did the same to the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask in the final (16 goals in six games) that year. And they just beat two of the three Vezina Trophy finalists (the Predators’ Pekka Rinne and the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk) to reach this year’s conference final.
So after the Ducks’ Frederik Andersen stymied the Hawks in a 4-1 Anaheim victory in Game 1 on Sunday, the Hawks went to their default solution: net-front presence.
It’s clear that Quenneville will try to stretch his top four of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson as far as he can, but they need some help if they’re going to survive this series. The Ducks drove Chicago’s defensemen into the boards at every opportunity in Game 1, with Hjalmarsson alone being targeted nine times. The toll was clear every time they skated back to the bench.
-Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated where you can read more on this plus other hockey topics...
Corey Hirsch of Sportsnet feels the same way...
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
Maybe it's because the Ducks don't have a dominant, minutes-gobbling defenseman like two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith of Chicago, tireless Ryan Suter of Minnesota, or Norris finalist Drew Doughty of the Kings that their defense corps hasn't gotten much respect.
Hampus Lindholm has the potential to become that kind of stud defenseman someday soon, but the Ducks don't have the equivalent of Keith, who is averaging a remarkable 30 minutes and 25 seconds of ice time per game. For now, the Ducks' strength is the balance they've built among their three pairs in terms of style and ice time.
"We don't get overloaded with minutes," said Francois Beauchemin, the team leader at an average of 23:50. "Guys don't get tired, like when you log 29, 30 minutes a game."
Once, Beauchemin routinely logged high totals. When the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, their defense featured Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer and future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, but Beauchemin led them with an average of 30:33. Pronger played 30:11 and Niedermayer averaged 29:51. "I was young, and I was able to take it easy," Beauchemin said, smiling.
from Jeff Miller of the OC Register,
There’s an old question about whether it’s better to be lucky or good, but the real question today is why do you have to make a choice at all?
It’s best, certainly, to be lucky and good, like Frederik Andersen and the Ducks were Sunday, which is largely why they beat Chicago, 4-1, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Andersen stopped 31 of 32 shots from the Blackhawks, prompting his coach, Bruce Boudreau, to say afterward: “He was very good. Our goaltender was very good.”
But it was Andersen’s paddle that made the save of the game, foiling Chicago’s other shot on goal, during a first period that, had the breaks gone the other direction, could have been the reason the Blackhawks won Game 1.
Baseball has its seeing-eye single. Andersen has his seeing-eye stick, a device that Sunday briefly took the game into its own no hands.
Forced by the pressure into an extremely compromised position, Andersen tossed everything he had left – which is to say the only thing he had left – in front of an otherwise naked net to prevent Patrick Kane from scoring barely five minutes into what was still a scoreless game.
Watch the Kane save below...
from Barry Rozner of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
So now it will be a question of adjustments for both teams, and the Hawks have an advantage there with Quenneville vs. Boudreau, whose playoff history is not in his favor.
The Hawks' head coach has already started to look for better matchups by giving Patrick Kane more to work with, at times even using him on a line with Jonathan Toews and Teuvo Teravainen, and there will probably be lineup changes for Game 2.
Quenneville also, predictably, reunited Keith with Brent Seabrook for a good portion of the game, but the Hawks' top four averaged 24 minutes while Rundblad played 10 and Kimmo Timonen only five.
Anaheim continued to play three sets of defense with its top four averaging 21 minutes and its bottom pair playing 17 and 15.
"I think we're fine," Quenneville said. "When you're not playing much, keep it simple, keep it safe and work your way through it."
from Corey Masisak of NHL.com,
One of the storylines entering the Western Conference Final was the matchup between the best comeback team in the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks, and the best at protecting leads, the Chicago Blackhawks.
The roles were reversed Sunday in Game 1 at Honda Center, and the Ducks looked quite comfortable playing from ahead in a 4-1 victory that gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Third-line forwards Nate Thompson and Kyle Palmieri had goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves for the Ducks.
Game 2 is Tuesday in Anaheim (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Chicago dominated large stretches of the first period, but Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm had the lone goal. Lindholm one-timed a Jakob Silfverberg pass from the Stanley Cup logo near the left point at 8:48.
Watch the game highlights below...
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.
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