The Chicago Blackhawks staved off elimination on Wednesday night with a 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in game six of their best-of-seven series. The result sets up a game seven in the Western Conference Finals, a decider that will be played on Saturday night from Anaheim, California.
Game five was a bit of a see-saw affair as the Blackhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period. They appeared good for the win until Anaheim answered back in the fairly late-going of the second and then again in the early parts of the third. But Chicago would stop any ideas of a comeback in game six with two late third period goals that served to seal the deal and force a one-and-done situation this weekend.
Goal scorers for Chicago were Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Andrew Shaw (2). Goal scorers for Anaheim were Patrick Maroon and Clayton Stoner.
The Ducks, a team who did not face a significant challenge in the opening two rounds of the 2015 NHL playoffs, are now in unchartered territory. Anaheim opened with a sweep of the Winnipeg Jets and continued their success in the second round, eliminating the Calgary Flames in five games. However, in the ‘hawks, Anaheim have found a worthy challenger, one with enough seasoned veterans to steal a game seven on the road.
The Blackhawks, like Anaheim, have not faced a game-seven situation in the 2015 NHL playoffs. However with skaters Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews Chicago has no shortage of experience in the post-season. Much is made about home-ice advantage in a game seven situation however much could be made about veteran leadership as well. Chicago boasts tons of it and they are not likely to be phased heading into the Honda Center on Saturday night.
According to Toews: “Again, we can resort to our experience in (high-pressure) situations and just feel confident. We’re going to go work. Fate’s on our side. We’ll find a way to make things happen.”
Anaheim can boast veteran leadership as well with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. However if it comes down to who is between the pipes then you would go with Chicago in game seven – despite the setting in Anaheim.
The ‘hawks have Corey Crawford, a netminder with now 69 appearances in NHL post-season games. He’s been stingy in the clutch before, he has ample playoff experience, and in recent playoff seasons he has not made many crucial mistakes.
With Frederik Andersen, Anaheim has a reliable goalie but one that’s still unproven in the pressure-filled situations. He let in four goals on just 22 shots in game six and that’s going to put him under the gun in game seven.
Between he and Crawford I truly think it will be the former who has the shaky legs when the final game of the Western Conference playoffs starts.
Prediction: Chicago wins game seven.