Playing in their fifth Western Conference Final of the past seven years and winners of two Stanley Cups in that same span (2010, 2013), the Blackhawks are about as known a commodity as you’ll find in today’s NHL. The Ducks might not have the same national cache (though they won the Cup in 2007) that Chicago does, but Anaheim looks like the team to beat in the playoffs.
Perhaps the most impressive part about the victory in Game 1 for the home team was that four different players scored goals and none of them were named Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf. This random group included Kyle Palmieri who scored his first goal of the playoffs for the Ducks while Hampus Lindholm and Nate Thompson both scored their second goals of the postseason. Chicago’s lone goal came from a depth player of their own - Brad Richards (his second of the playoffs).
Game 2 on Tuesday (9 p.m., NBCSN) at the Honda Center is not exactly a must-win for Chicago but it will at least need a closer final score to gain some confidence before heading back to the United Center for Games 3 and 4. This is the first time in the 2015 postseason that the Blackhawks have even trailed in a series. The most adversity they had faced before this was a 1-1 series tie in Round 1 vs. Nashville (they proceeded to win 3 out of the next 4 to close out the Predators). The Ducks have been even more dominant since they are 9-1 in the playoffs with their only loss coming in Round 2 vs. Calgary (a 4-3 overtime setback in Game 3).
For all the headlining stars on both clubs - Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler on Anaheim; Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith on Chicago-it will probably come down to whichever goaltender plays better. In Game 1, Chicago’s Corey Crawford was OK. He made 23 saves and allowed three goals (Anaheim’s final tally was an empty-netter). On the other side, Anaheim’s Frederik Anderson was spectacular with 33 saves to earn the No. 1 star of the game. He’s only 25-years-old and this is his second postseason as the Ducks’ starter but Anderson showed his ability with an otherworldly diving stop on Kane.
Hits can oftentimes be an overrated stat in the NHL but that’s not the case with a big, physical team like Anaheim who want to dictate style in that fashion. They had 10 more hits than Chicago in Game 1 (44-34) and even more importantly, the Ducks blocked 13 more shots (22-9) than the Blackhawks. Chicago had three of the four power-plays in the contest but they went 0-for-3. Most expect this to be a long series but for that to happen, the Blackhawks will have to clean up many areas of their game starting on Tuesday.