The Anaheim Ducks played well enough to win Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, but Marcus Kruger’s triple-overtime game-winning goal tied the series up at a game apiece and took away home ice advantage from the Ducks.
Despite that loss, the Ducks still have some things to be positive about as the series resumes in Chicago on Thursday night. For starters, their goaltender Frederik Andersen played some of the best hockey of his career on Tuesday in Game 2, going nearly two hours without giving up a goal and stopping 47 shots in a row before Kruger’s game winner.
In addition to Andersen’s goaltending, the Ducks continued to get solid production out of their bottom six forwards. Andrew Cogliano picked up a goal in the game to get the Ducks’ offense started in the game, and center Nate Thompson had an excellent game as well, holding Patrick Kane off the scoresheet for the second game in a row and picking up an assist in the losing effort.
Finally, the Ducks bounced back from a tough game possession-wise in Game 1 to beat the Blackhawks in those categories on Tuesday. After the Hawks scored two power play goals in the first period, the Ducks absolutely dominated the rest of the first period and the entire second period. Over a stretch of 13 minutes during that second period, the Ducks outshot the Blackhawks 17-1 and put pressure on the Hawks’ shallow defensive depth as they tied the game.
Unfortunately, that pressure and that goaltending didn’t get them a victory, but a repeat performance would certainly help them as they try to capture Game 3. In order to achieve that however, they will have to try to overcome a couple of unique obstacles as the series shifts to the Windy City.
For starters, the Blackhawks will have the advantage of last line change, and that could prove problematic for Bruce Boudreau. The Jonathan Toews line has been held in check nicely by the Ryan Kesler line so far in this series, but odds are that Joel Quenneville will aggressively seek out a more advantageous matchup, and the Hawks could get more scoring opportunities for that group.
That same factor could end up proving helpful to Patrick Kane, who has been the Hawks’ worst possession player in the first two games of this series as he’s been held in check by the Thompson line. Quenneville will likely try to get him out against Kesler or even the Ryan Getzlaf line, depending on situation, and that could help spark the winger as he looks to break out.
In addition to matchup issues, the Blackhawks also showed that their power play woes during Game 1 of the series were a thing of the past as they scored twice on the man-advantage in Game 2. That gives the physically-imposing Ducks a bit of a disadvantage, and they will have to try to play smarter defense as they try to stay out of the penalty box.
Minimizing the impact of matchup disadvantages and staying out of the box will help the Ducks, but it won’t be enough on its own. The team has to make sure that they keep their offensive depth as a weapon against the Blackhawks, and that means their second line especially will have to step up their game. Jakob Silfverberg is capable of that kind of play, and Kesler and Matt Beleskey will also have to produce in order for the Ducks to be successful.