NHL Western Conference Finals Game Three: Anaheim Ducks at Chicago Blackhawks

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Finals Game #3
#1 Anaheim Ducks at #3 Chicago Blackhawks
Best of Seven Series Tied 1-1

United Center – Chicago, Illinois
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 8:05 pm Eastern, TV: NBC Sports
Opening Line: Chicago -135 / Anaheim +115
Current Line: Chicago -135 / Anaheim +115
Opening Total: over 5 -110 / under 5 -110
Current Total: over 5 -140 / under 5 +120

The Chicago Blackhawks are favored in game three of the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Chicago Blackhawks are favored in game three of the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks.

After the Anaheim Ducks won game one of the Western Conference Finals by a convincing 4-1 score against the Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago earned a split in Anaheim with a thrilling 3-2 triple overtime win in game two Tuesday. Now the series switches to Chicago for the next two games, with game three Thursday night.

Chicago, coached by Joel Quenneville, finished third in the Central Division with 102 points. The Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round, and swept the Minnesota Wild in four games in the conference semifinals.

Anaheim, coached by Bruce Boudreau,  won the Pacific Division with 109 points, and had the best record in the Western Conference. The Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets in the first round and beat the Calgary Flames in five games in the semifinals.

In game two Tuesday, Chicago scored two power play goals within the first six and a half minutes to take a 2-0 lead. Andrew Shaw scored two minutes in assisted by Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews. Marian Hossa lit the lamp 4 minutes later assisted by Bryan Bickell and Brad Richards. Andrew Cogliano got the Ducks back into the game with a goal at 9 minutes assisted by Nate Thompson and Cam Fowler. Corey Perry tied game late in the second period assisted by Ryan Getzlaf and Sami Vatanen.

Neither team would score again in regulation, although both teams had chances. Overtime came and went without a goal as well. In the second overtime, Shaw appeared to score the game winner for Chicago but officials disallowed the goal because he made a deliberate head-butting motion instead of using his stick. It was a play that is perfectly legal in soccer but not in hockey. Very few people knew about the rule. Various NHL players went on social media and said they didn’t knew it was a rule and even the NBC Sports commentators thought the game was over.

The game would continue until Marcus Kruger scored for the Blackhawks with just under four minutes left in the third overtime, assisted by Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya. It was the longest game in the 89 year history of the Blackhawks, and the third multiple overtime game for Chicago in these playoffs. The Blackhawks have won all three including double and triple overtime wins over the Predators in the first round. Anaheim hadn’t played a multiple overtime game since 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings.

Both goalies were incredible. Chicago’s Corey Crawford made 60 saves on 62 shots. Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen made 53 saves on 56 shots. Chicago went 2/5 on the power play, while Anaheim failed to convert on five power play chances. The Ducks were by far the most physical team with 71 hits to 45 for the Blackhawks. Each team had 40 turnovers. Anaheim won 59 faceoffs to 53 for Chicago.

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Chicago is outscoring teams 3.00-2.83. The Blackhawks are #3 in scoring in the playoffs but #12 in goals allowed. Chicago is 7/33 (21.2%) on the power play and 30/39 (76.9%) on the penalty kill. Chicago has 2 short handed goals and hasn’t allowed any. The Blackhawks average 34.2 shots per game and opponents average 37.7 per game.

Chicago has used 2 goalies in the playoffs. Crawford struggled against Nashville in the first round and was benched in favor of Scott Darling for four games in that series. Darling struggled too, and Crawford has started the last six games in net. Crawford is 6-2 in the playoffs with 2.32 GAA. He has a save percentage of .925 with one shutout. Darling is 3-1 with a 2.22 GAA. He has a save percentage of .936. Crawford will start, but could be on a short leash if he struggles again like in game one.

Patrick Kane has 7 goals and 6 assists. Jonathan Toews has 4 goals and 8 assists. Duncan Keith has 2 goals and 9 assists. Patrick Sharp has 4 goals and 5 assists. Marian Hossa has 2 goals and 7 assists. Three other players have 6 points in the playoffs. Defenseman Michal Rozival is out for the season with an ankle injury. Chicago is only using four defensemen in this series, and the lack of depth could hurt after such an exhausting game two marathon.

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Anaheim is outscoring teams 3.73-2.00 in the playoffs. The Ducks are first in both categories among the 16 playoff teams. Anaheim is 9/35 (25.7%) on the power play and 33/39 (84.6%) on the penalty kill. The Ducks are #2 in power play percentage and #4 in penalty killing. Anaheim has allowed one short handed goal. The Ducks average 35.7 shots per game and allow 29.8 per game.

Andersen is 9-2 in the playoffs with a 1.81 GAA. He has a save percentage of .933 with one shutout.

Corey Perry has 8 goals and 8 assists. Ryan Getzlaf has 2 goals and 12 assists. Jakob Silfverberg has 4 goals and 9 assists. Ryan Kesler has 4 goals and 5 assists. Hampus Lindholm has 2 goals and 6 assists. Sami Vatanen has 2 goals and 6 assists. Six other players have at least six points in the playoffs.

Anaheim is 5-0 in Thursday games, 7-1 in road games, 9-2 against teams with winning records, 4-1 after scoring 2 goals or less, and in Conference Finals games, 38-14 against Western Conference teams, 38-15 against Central teams, 27-11 on one day rest, and 46-22 overall.  The road team is 5-1 in this series recently. The Ducks are 4-1 in their last 5 trips to Chicago.

Chicago is 5-0 on one day rest, 6-1 against Pacific teams, overall, and against Western Conference teams, 4-1 after a win, 8-3 in Thursday games, and 91-40 at home. The under is 20-6-2 in this series recently, including 9-1 in Chicago. The Blackhawks have won 5 of the last 7 overall against the Ducks.

These teams are evenly matched. Neither team will be intimidated playing on the road. Anaheim has more depth and I think that helps them with such a short turnaround. Although Crawford was fantastic in game two, he has struggled in these playoffs. You don’t know which Crawford will show up. I think the Ducks rebound and regain home ice with a close win tonight.

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