If Game 1 is at all telling about how the rest of the Western Conference final is going to go, the Chicago Blackhawks are going to have to start capitalizing on their opportunities or the Anahiem Ducks could be moving on to the Stanley Cup final in a hurry.
While the familiar names on the Ducks, the stars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, didn’t factor into the scoring, it was the depth players who made the most of every opportunity afforded to them to change the game’s outcome. And if all four lines for the Ducks continue to click, the Blackhawks will need to find some way to answer.
Anaheim struck first in the game thanks to a goal from blueliner Hampus Lindholm in the first period and extended their lead to 2-0 thanks to a goal from Kyle Palmieri. With the Ducks holding a two-goal lead, the Blackhawks seemingly couldn’t find an answer for Anaheim’s neutral zone pressure and defensive zone strategy. And though Brad Richards scored late in the second period to bring the Blackhawks within one goal, they never got closer than that.
Rarely, if ever in the third period, did Chicago break through and maintain puck possession in the Anaheim zone. Eventually, the Ducks found a moment to break through and capitalized on it, with Nate Thompson scoring the Ducks’ third goal of the contest to put the game out of reach for the Blackhawks. Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg, who has been outstanding for the Ducks in the post-season, put the capper on the contest when he scored an empty-net goal with little more than a minute remaining.
While Chicago did muster 33 shots on Frederik Andersen, the Ducks netminder was rarely tested to a great extent. Most of his stops, throughout the entire game, were routine saves that didn’t force him to scramble. If that’s how the rest of the series goes, there’s little doubt that Andersen can continue his stellar play that he has managed thus far.
For the Blackhawks, what is worrying is that there were few shifts in which either Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane stood out. There were moments of brilliance from Kane – he would have scored had it not been for the stick of Andersen in the first frame – but that was it. Instead, some of the best play came from Chicago’s Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins.
This isn’t a situation these Blackhawks have ever been in, either. In each of the 2010, 2013 and 2014 post-season runs by the Blackhawks, the team won Game 1. Though they won Game 1 of last season’s Western Conference final, they would drop the series to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
The Ducks now go into Game 2 undefeated at home in the playoffs. Though Anaheim didn’t have the shot attempts advantage, they’ve continually defied what underlying statistics have said about the club. Game 1 was another one of those instances – Chicago had 61 shot attempts at even strength to Anaheim’s 48.
In Game 2, Chicago will need to slow down Anaheim’s depth and hope to keep the stars in check. If not, it’ll be a 2-0 deficit for the Blackhawks heading back to the Madhouse on Madison.