Why in the world should the Ducks and Blackhawks play Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday at United Center? We all know the series, where Anaheim leads Chicago 3-2, will go seven games, so the Ducks should just forfeit really.
Via the Chicago Sun-Times:
The Hawks’ history of playing their best only when they absolutely have to is maddening at times. But from captain Jonathan Toews on down, the Hawks take a lot of pride in that. In 2011, the core of this team rallied from a 3-0 deficit against the top-seeded Canucks to force a Game 7. In 2013, they recovered from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Red Wings en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Last year they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7 against the Kings.
The Orange County Register indicates this series, which has been a classic so far that’s included three overtime games, will likely return to Anaheim on Saturday.
In a spectacular, dazzling and dizzying series that seems to have had everything, there has been one glaring omission: a winning streak.
The teams have alternated victories through the first five games, meaning Game 6 on Wednesday at United Center is the Blackhawks’ turn.
Except, maybe it’s not the Hawks’ turn. Chicago’s only still in this series thanks to two overtime wins. If the bounces went Anaheim’s way the Ducks would have made the Stanley Cup Final already. But part of that stems from Chicago’s attitude, which comes from its captain, Jonathan Toews.
There’s more to winning than just skill in the postseason. It takes talent, and a survivalist instinct. Toews, who scored two goals in the final two minutes of Game 5 to force overtime, has both. And Chicago follows his lead.
“Even if he’s not saying anything, the way he battles, obviously scoring the big goals for us, he leads by example. That picks the team up. He does a great job of that,” Chicago forward Brandon Saad said.
Between Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane, Chicago has a litany of players who just always seem to make the right play when it’s needed. Hockey is often a game of chance and luck. But this has become a strange pattern.
How can the Ducks stop this? They should use their current history with Chicago, their recent playoff past and examples of another current series.
The New York Rangers have the same sort of postseason mentality as Chicago. The Tampa Bay Lightning could have clinched over New York at home Tuesday night, and they blew it in a 7-3 loss.
The Ducks were up 3-2 against the Los Angeles Kings in the second-round of the playoffs last season. They lost Game 6 on the “road” and then Game 7 at “home.”
It would probably be smart of Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau to bring all this up with his team.
“I thought we played a really good game. We played a really good road game. It should have actually been an overtime game. But it wasn’t,” Boudreau said of last year’s Game 6 against LA. “When two teams are playing at their best, it’s usually some break or bounce that is the difference in the game. Last year that was the difference.”
Anaheim flat-out needs a better game from Frederik Andersen than Game 5. He allowed four goals, and looked shakey, especially on Toews second goal, which came from a goal line angle and Teuvo Teravainen’s score.
“During the course of the season, if he’s had a bad game, the next game’s been really good. I have no qualms about Freddie,” Boudreau said. “The lucky thing is he didn’t play as well as he would have liked to and we won. Usually when he doesn’t play as well as he would like to, we don’t have success. I like the fact he’s going back in. We trust him. He’s going to play real good tonight.”
In Game 6, the Blackhawks sound as if they will bench massive liability defenseman Kimmo Timonen and go with David Rundblad and Kyle Cumiskey as their bottom two blueliners. Will coach Joel Quenneville play them more to even out the minutes? As our own Ryan Lambert pointed out in What We Learned, Chicago has played with fire using its top-four defensemen to an extreme degree.
Keith has been the only blueliner capable of handling those minutes. The rest have been a bit inconsistent.
The Ducks have gotten steadier play from pretty much all their players. But when it comes to a clinching situation against a team with a championship pedigree like Chicago, is that enough?
If the Ducks lose and it appears Boudreau’s message has gotten stale, he can always look to Gordon Bombay for inspiration.
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