Time to clean up our preview of the Hawks’ Western Conference Final opponent the Anaheim Ducks.
Now this is where things could go a bit sideways for the Hawks, and clearly the biggest flashing red light. Just like the Hawks did last round, the Hawks will face the team heading into it with the playoffs’ hottest power play, as the Ducks are clicking at 31% in two rounds. Both Winnipeg and Calgary had middling kills during the season, but it’s not like the Hawks’ can claim much else from about March on.
Some of the threat you already know, and that’s Ryan Kesler in front. They didn’t always have him there this season, which is one of the reasons the Ducks’ PP in the regular season was a broken Tonka toy. But they’ve got him there now, and he’s hard to move and extremely adept at tips and screening the goalie. Expect him to “fall” on Crawford a few times this series, along with humanized rhino piss Corey Perry.
While Kesler is taking up space in the middle, you’ve still got to deal with Vatanen and Getzlaf at the points, and Perry and Silfverberg from the wings. Silfverberg is one to watch, as the release on his shot is up around the Semin category.
The second unit isn’t to be sneezed at either, with Fowler, and the now suddenly scorching Matt Beleskey, monolith Patrick Maroon. Needless to say, it would behoove the Hawks to stay out of the box. While the numbers are not pretty for the Hawks’ kill, they’ve gotten the kills they had to have, as all of Minny’s PP goals came with the Hawks comfortably ahead (though the Hawks would blow that lead in Game 1). That’s probably how this will go too.
The Ducks’ kill is humming as well, clocking in at 87% through the first two rounds. Again, the Jets’ or Flames’ PP are not exactly getting picked up by radiation detectors anytime soon, but again, neither is the Hawks’.
Encouragingly, Frederik Andersen’s numbers come down when shorthanded, as he’s got a .886 SV% then in the playoffs, which isn’t actually that terrible.
Much like the Hawks, the Ducks really only use four forwards on the kill, though they go through all their d-men. Cogliano, Kesler, Silfverberg, and Getzlaf are who you will primarily see out there. Through Cogs and Silfverberg, that’s a real high-pressure, high-speed threat to go the other way, and obviously Kesler and Getzlaf are more than offensively capable as well. Mishandles at the blue line are going to be severely punished.
We haven’t always included this section in our previews, but it’s probably necessary here. And if you’re a newcomer around here, you might start to think our views on coaches around the league is counter to popular opinion just for the sake of it. After all, it would fit in with our punk rock sensibilities.
So it might seem like piling on, when after complaining about our coach who has the third most wins all time and two Cups, we’re going to turn Bruce Boudreau into ice-cream based Flubber. That’s Bruce Boudreau, he of the best regular season record the past three years. He the coach of a team that’s never not won a division when he’s been at the helm for the full season.
It’s clear that his players love him, which is a big reason they play well for him. Boudreau certainly doesn’t get in the way during the season, preferring a fast and loose up-tempo style that lets players kind of do what they want. He’s a great quote, which kind of shields him from the press.
But I look at Boudreau, and basically I see Mike D’Antoni from his Suns days. Those were great teams. They were tons of fun. But when the playoffs rolled around and they actually needed to go to a Plan B and get creative when their go-go ways were stifled, he didn’t have one. And neither does Boudreau.
Perhaps the most important thing to watch in this series is whether or not Boudreau attempts to match lines at home. It’s not something he’s ever done. He just rolls four. And it’s been an issue for the Ducks, and when the opponents is dead set on taking Getzlaf out, they can do that even on the road. Boudreau never ran from Kopitar against Getzlaf last spring, and Kopitar feasted on Getzlaf’s innards and then regurgitated them for his kids to eat. Two years ago Boudreau never attempted to get Getzlaf away from Zetterberg. Played to a standstill.
For the past couple seasons, Jonathan Toews has completely whacked Getzlaf when the two have seen each other. While the Ducks have had their share of success against the Hawks, it hasn’t come from the top line. If Q can simply time this and get Toews or even Kruger out there against Getzlaf regularly, that’s a big advantage for the Hawks. If Boudreau doesn’t run Kesler out there every time #19 hop over the boards in white, he’s essentially wasting one of the main purposes of that acquisition.
In addition, with the Ducks having a size advantage over the Hawks I can’t escape the feeling that Boudreau will send his charges out with the main mission of “punishing” them. Except every team that’s tried that usually goes home pretty quickly. The Blues tried. The Kings tried and failed, so came back the next year determined to skate with the Hawks. Minnesota tried in previous seasons. I just think it’s what the Ducks will attempt, which will mean they won’t have the puck. Which means the Hawks will. That doesn’t work out well for most others.
And mostly, Boudreau’s teams have never needed much of a push to go running off a cliff screaming while tearing at their hair when things go wrong. You need to look no further than his teams’ records with Game 7’s at home. 1-5. And in three of those losses they got heavily outplayed. I don’t think it’ll take that long. While they did fight back from 0-2 down against the Kings last year, they needed Jonathan Quick to cough up a lung to do it (Quick have up nine goals on 57 shots for a SV% of .842 in the Kings’ three losses in that series). And even that wasn’t enough. Put this team in a hole, and they’ll claw at each other instead of out.
It’s not like Q doesn’t have his faults, and today by pairing Keith and Hjalmarsson and Oduya and Seabrook he looks to be once again overthinking it, but his attention to detail here could come in very, very handy for the Hawks.