California Uber Alles – Conference Final vs. Anaheim Preview: The Crease And The Blue Line

The Conference Final is where it feels like the warm up acts are off and the headliner has taken the stage It’s serious now, maybe because you’re halfway home and each successive win brings you closer to the end than the beginning (which I guess is always true but now you’re over the line). There’s only one game per night, usually, so you have the attention of the whole hockey world throughout the series. Even though this is the fifth time in the last seven years the Hawks have gotten this far, there’s still a tinge or an uptick in the excitement when they do. And for the fourth straight trip, they’ll be heading back to Cali.

What will they find when they get there? Today we start to find out…


Frederik Andersen: Playoff Stats – 9 starts, 1.96 GAA, .925 SV% (.934 at evens)

For the first time the Hawks won’t face a goalie with some revival story, and one with just about no hype. And because of that in part there isn’t much to write about Andersen. He’s been solid for the Ducks for two seasons now, carrying a career .918 SV% which is just a tick over league average. He’s a big boy at 6-3, so he’ll cover a lot of net and he’s pretty athletic though not Rinne-athletic. He got hurt in last year’s playoffs and even when he did play the Stars and Kings kind of perforated him. He hasn’t had much to do in these playoffs, as the Jets and Flames only made him make more than 30 saves once in nine games. Gonna go out on a limb here and say he’ll have to do that more than once against the Hawks.

Ah, the Hawks. They haven’t been so kind to him in his short career. He’s only made two starts agin’ them, and lost both, giving up seven goals (all at even strength) on 70 shots. At the end of the day, Andersen is not going to win this series for the Ducks, but he probably won’t lose it either. I’ll amend that to I’ll be shocked if he does win the series for them.

If things do go sideways for Andersen, there’s every chance John Gibson could get a look. I still think he projects as the better long-term prospect, but clearly the Ducks haven’t decided that. He shut out the Hawks in October, and while just about the same size as Andersen he’s just smoother. The problem is he can’t keep body parts from falling off of him and hasn’t gotten a sustained run in net. Calling it now, he’ll make at least one appearance in this series.


Do you want to know why we’re so bullish about this series? It’s right here. The biggest weak point of the Ducks is their blue line. There is no Ryan Suter here. There is no Seth Jones here. I’m not even sure there’s a Roman Josi here. There are going to be long stretches of games where the Hawks are going to do as they please in the Ducks’ zone, and this collection of jokers and punters is going to helpless to do anything about it. Let’s run through it:

Top Pairing: Francois Beauchemin – Playoffs: 0 goals, 6 assists, +3, 50.6% score-adjusted Corsi (regular season)

Hampus Lindholm – Playoffs: 1 goal, 5 assists, +1, 51.8% score-adjusted Corsi

I guess? This is probably the top pairing unless Fowler and Despres is. And because I can’t name it, that probably means they don’t have one. There was a time when Beauchemin was a top of the line ass kicker, and that’s when he was playing with Chris Pronger in his first go-around with Anaheim. Well, it’s eight years later now, he’s 34 and even less mobile than he used to be and he wasn’t all that quick to begin with. The idea of him trying to keep up with Saad or Sharp is farcical, which is why he’ll try and keep things along the wall where he does have an advantage. He’s still got a nasty disposition and the Hawks will pay a price for engaging him down low. It’s when they escape there with possession that the problems for him are really going to begin.

Hampus! Hampus! has a big future ahead of him. A fluid skater with great vision up the ice, he’s probably a top pairing puck-mover in the future. But the future is not now, and he can get rocked in his own zone. At 6-3 and 205 he still hasn’t quite learned to play to his size, and seeing as how he’ll be on the side where Marian Hossa lives, that might be an issue. When the Ducks have the puck he’s a real danger though, and the Hawks will have to keep him from getting things going or track him while he joins the rush where he can create real havoc.

2nd Pair – Cam Fowler: 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, +7, 50.1% score-adjusted Corsi

Simon Despres: 0 goals, 5 assists, 5 points, +6, 53.8% score-adjusted Corsi

This really should be considered the top pairing, though it hasn’t played as many minutes as the one above it. It does have the mobility to somewhat contend with the Hawks’ speed and attack. At least in theory. I never know what to make of Cam Fowler. You look at him and you’re sure you’re looking at a Suter-type but with more offensive upside, because all the tools are there. And then you see he ended up a healthy scratch in March because he was so awful. His awareness in the neutral zone and his own can go daydream at times. He’s not small, but another player who can get tossed around. And if he’s drawing the top assignment instead of Hampus! Hampus!, he’ll run into the same Hossa-shaped problem (maybe this is why Hossa has kicked a hole in the Ducks possession-wise the past two years, hmm?).

I still have a hard time accepting that Bob Murray can ever make a good trade, or know how to use a fork, but getting Simon Despres for the rock-headed Ben Lovejoy was one. Lovejoy would have drowned in this series by Game 3, and the far more mobile Despres has the tools to survive (which makes you wonder why the Penguins didn’t want him when their entire top four was hurt, but that’s not a pool I have the patience to wade into today). I don’t know that Despres does anything particularly well, he’s just solid in most every way and another big body at 6-4. That’s the one thing the Ducks’ defense has going for it is that it’s pretty huge. But then, so’s the Blues’ defense.

3rd Pair: Sami Vatanen: 2 goals, 5 assists, +7, 51.8% score-adjusted Corsi

Clayton Stoner: 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points, -2, 51.1% score-adjusted Corsi

YA HA TIME!! With the Hawks rocking perhaps the most depth at forward they’ve had in at least five years, teams simply cannot hide their third pairing. Ask Matt Dumba. And this one is going to have different organisms latched onto it by the end of this series, subsisting on the various waste and fluids that is leaking out of it.

Vatanen is the definition of a cowboy, in that he’s really good in the offensive end and on the power play but so aggressive that he either gets caught and leaves odd-man rushes behind him or he’s running around his defensive zone trying to make things happen as if he were simply made of Adderal. He’s undersized as well, so the bigger Hawks forwards can make him work along the wall. The thought of him having to face down any of the Hawks top six at the United Center should leave you frothing at the mouth.

I could try and find eight different ways to say Clayton Stoner sucks, but it won’t be as effective as just saying Clayton Stoner sucks. He’s Beauchemin without any of the puck-skill, so he tries to amp up his supposed “rugged edge” which is just going to result in Hawk power plays (not that that will mean much to anyone). This is the Clayton Stoner that ran around trying to punch everything last spring on the Wild, and when the Hawks bothered to skate an actual line at him instead of the corpses they had lying around, they buried him. Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger should have a field day with this lot, and if they don’t than Teravainen and Sharp certainly will.

There’s a reason the Hawks took 57% of the attempts in the three games with the Ducks this year. You’re looking at it.

  • Sopel the catfish

    And this is why I feel confident about this series. Not cocky, but very confident. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I felt more worried about the Wild 4 games ago than I do now about the Ducks. I just hope that their penisloaf doesn’t kill any of Hawks.

    • HawkVision

      Wow. He really does look like a penisloaf.
      Also, here’s the summary of the majority of analysis out there right now that I’m reading:
      -Crawford: bad
      -Andersen and “rolling through the 1st two rounds”: Good
      -So, Ducks win.

      Okay then.

      • Shhhh it’s just gonna make it even more hilarious when the Blackhawks blitzkrieg the Ducks and sweep ’em.

      • ZigZags82

        Can’t help but laugh. Can’t wait to see the Hawks squeeze out all hope out of these Ducks

      • WookRN

        Guess I should just put money on us then….

      • To Saad be the glory

        The thing I don’t understand is that the Ducks played in the worst division in the nhl during the regular season and just beat the two teams with the worst records in the western conf. playoff wise. The Flames wouldn’t have even made the playoffs out east,but we are supposed to be scared of this 8-1 juggernaut called the Ducks. Like you said “okay then”.

      • DJ

        Could you link to some examples? Outside of homers in Anaheim, I find it hard to believe the analysis could be that naïve.

      • Dangles-a-Plenty

        For some odd reason, I found myself scared of the Ducks as they advanced to play the Calgary Flamimg Pile of Garbage. Then I realized they had the easiest walk into the conference finals since ‘Nam. now the only thing I’m scared of is DoucheLord Corey Perry injuring someone and completely getting away with it. Fuck off with that guy.

    • AirTrafficAJ

      Jesus, he even LOOKS like a serial killer. He must have gone to the “Chris Pronger School of Mugshots”

      • Sopel the catfish

        Prong has a creepy “I just refilled the candy jars in my van” look whereas penisloaf looks like he’s really excited about recounting the stories about where all the bodies are.

        • SuperHawk27

          Coincidence that that played on the same team?…to share their secrets?

      • corbant

        Reminds me of a young Bill Paxton in that pic.

  • Hey, let’s all take a moment to chuckle at the fact that James Wisniewski has been a healthy scratch for every Ducks playoff game and their blueline is already bad without him.

    • wanker751

      No wiz no wins….

      • ZigZags82

        They won’t win even if he does play….

    • They couldn’t figure out he was crap the first time ’round?

    • Sopel the catfish

      I also like how there was ‘nary a mention of him by Sam in his write up.

    • Shooter

      Have to imagine we’ll see him at some point? Probably only thing keeping his headhunting corpse nailed to the press box is the one loss they’ve had so far.

  • Jim

    They Ducks are going to come out hitting to try and use their size advantage. I just hope no Hawks get hurt.

    Seems like the book on Anaheim is Getzlaf and Perry, and then…..?

    • ZigZags82

      *Knocks on wood

    • SuperHawk27

      That book has been thrown at the hawks for the past 5 years…I guess when you can’t keep up, you have to try to drag them down. I’m sure NBC is going to make a huge deal out of it.

      • HawkVision

        I’m bracing myself for the “HIT STATS” and “the Hawks are getting out-hit a ELEVENTY BILLION TO 2! HOW CAN THEY SURVIVE!?”

        • Sopel the catfish

          The best part about that is when the next stat line is goal totals which the Hawks will/should lead.

    • Skags

      A pretty good 2nd line of Kesler and a couple pretty decent forwards whose names escape me. One of which is a rookie. Keep in mind Kesler is going to be ramped up after getting snubbed by Stan after all but begging to come to join DDN and co. for a cup run.

      • Black JEM

        Nah – he knows there was no cap room.

      • ZigZags82

        When he was in Vancouver he was ramped up too… did that work out?

    • ToucanStubbs

      Let’s not get carried away. Kesler has been good, Silfverberg has been outstanding, same with Cogliano and Belesky. Their top 6 has been going nuts against two mediocre teams. Their bottom 6, on the other hand, is non-existent. Look for Toews to make a mockery of Gets Laughs and Corey Penisloaf and the 4th line to at least make life hell for Kesler. Meanwhile, Kane and TT are going to run circles around everyone else.

  • To Saad be the glory

    On a side note, has an article that says that it looks like Josh Harding is set to announce his retirement. I wish him all the best. What a shame. A great talent and I hope that he has been an inspiration to some one out there. Keep up the good fight Josh.

  • rhodes

    Hearing unofficial reports (rumors) that the series may not start until Sunday. WTF?

    • Sopel the catfish

      After Lightning won tonight they stated game one of Lightning v The Other Guys From The East was on Saturday. IIRC I saw that Mr Kardashian and Ludacris have a concert at the Honda Center on Saturday as well, so Hawks were either going to be a short start Friday or Sunday. With how much hockey Hawks and ducklings have played it just wouldn’t be fair to make them play as soon as Friday I guess.

      • To Saad be the glory

        I for one am sick of this shit. Montreal and the Rags I believe also had scheduling conflicts earlier on in the playoffs because of arena prior commitments. If your arena has scheduling conflicts,guess what, tough shit. Go play in the arena that doesn’t. A.k.a you lose home ice advantage. The nhl has lost control of this thanks to the networks/arenas and it’s turning into a farce. I hate to admit it,but maybe the nba is right. If the next round is set for two opponents, then let er rip even if the previous rd isn’t completed for some teams.

        • Sopel the catfish

          The back to back of 3 and 4 was due to Nitro Circus scheduled for Tampa (it ended up getting cancelled) and they didn’t play game 6 on Monday because Bette Middler (sp?) had already been booked. You do not want to see angry Bette Middler fans (way worse than Kanye fans, who almost all seem to hate him [deservedly so] everywhere he goes). I get that arenas need to make money when sports aren’t happening in order for the bottom line to work out, but the primary occupant or event or sport or team should have preference. I get that it would suck to reschedule something that planners have to book *edit* [months] in advance, but if your profit structure requires you to gamble on when space is available when you would hope that your team is competing maybe you suck at business and running a good sports team.

          I concur.

          • To Saad be the glory

            Well,on the flip side,if the Rags lose tomorrow night I think the east is done! I don’t even see the Ducks losing to Tampa or Washington let alone the Hawks.

          • Sopel the catfish

            Again, I concur.

          • Sopel the catfish

            The east is better this year than last, but the west still has a clear edge overall IMO (even though the ducklings didn’t necessarily play any actual playoff teams yet this year)
            I did love me some Flames for the last few months, but if anyone thought they could legitimately hang around then I have a bridge to sell to you.

            (side note in full disclosure I did pick the Jets to beat the ducks, but I mean, they were bigger, goalie was hot, had Buff coming back. Fuck. They led in 3 of the games [I had thought it was all 4 but only been hearing 3] I don’t remember where I saw it, but I agree that even though it is impressive the ducks came back from being down in those games, it isn’t as much a show of ducks being good but more so the Jets lack of defense or being able to close out a game.)

          • To Saad be the glory

            Yeah,I picked the Jets too. Ducks are supposed to be the 3rd pd. come back kings,but the Hawks haven’t squandered a 3rd pd. lead in a month of Sundays.

      • rhodes

        Seems like they could have started on Thursday w/ the 2nd game on Sunday. It’s not unprecedented for a team to start a new series after only 1 off day. The Lightning ended their series with Detroit on a Wed and had to travel to Montreal on Friday to start the second round. The Ducks don’t even have to travel.

        A rest is nice, but 9 days?

  • Sopel the catfish

    Apparently more NHL games will eventually happen after this June. Good article though

  • Dangles-a-Plenty

    Thank you for the reassurance that the Quacks defense is Swiss cheese in its own zone