Chicago’s got problems on defense. Hard to imagine, but with only four serviceable players on the blueline, they were threatened if the Ducks came out Tuesday night and pounded them. Four men can only take so much.
Of course, they dressed six, not four, but the final two were Kyle Cumiskey, in for the disastrous David Rundblad, whose playoff debut included two huge mistakes which cost the team goals on Sunday night. And the last was Kimo Timonen, 40 years old and playing about five minutes a night. That’s right. Precisely it was 5:15 Sunday afternoon, but over his past four games, not including Tuesday, he got no more than eight minutes.
He’s a defenseman, folks. Twenty minutes is average. Under fifteen and they start to check whether you got on the bus to the arena on time. As it would turn out, he would post almost ten in the first 60 minutes of Tuesday’s game, but that amount of regulation time would not be enough to decide the contest.
The difference, however, between the Ducks and Blackhawks on this evening was not down to the D. Rather, it was some of the same keys that had helped the Ducks prevail in game one, namely good play from their depth lines and being able to match the best Chicago lines with Ducks’ trios that could hold them down. That’s not to say that Anaheim won, because as you likely know, they dropped a 3-2 game in OT. But by the time that happened, so much else had gone on that all bets, strategizing, and anything except pure guts and grit had been left behind.
The Ducks had no production (except one secondary assist on the empty net goal that ended the game) on Sunday from their first line, and by media reports, Getzlaf was mad—at himself more than anyone else—and bound to do better. For that reason, one presumes, Coach Boudreau kept his line away from a matching role versus the two big lines of Chicago, so the checking looked like this: early on, against the Saad, Toews, and Hossa line, it was the Ducks’ Kesler line (with Silfverberg and Beleskey). The Chicago line of Kane, Richards, and Bickell was checked by Cogliano, Palmieri, and Nate Thompson.
The Getzlaf line, thus, was matched, or overmatched, against other Chicago units.
And on offense, both the Cogliano line, nominally the team’s third, and their fourth line, the recently reacquainted Rakell, Sekac, and Etem, were buzzing. They were so good, in fact, that they scared the Hawks late in the first period, holding the puck in the Chicago end for an extended time, garnering a huge cheer from the crowd (yeah, these people don’t know hockey—that’s a lie), and forcing Coach Quenneville to call his timout to get his team settled down and back to work.
This is not to say that the Ducks had their way, especially early, and especially when you note that the first period ended 2-1 for the Blackhawks. The clearest way to describe the disruption Chicago caused their hosts is to say that the Ducks were playing without their long pass. They weren’t able to generate speed. Every play looked like it was one-on-one, and when you isolate guys, they can’t use each other to get you skating in circles. The Chicago checking game was working, in other words. This was especially true against the Getzlaf line. They were not playing and moving the puck as they wanted to. Their first period output was just one shot, by Maroon. The team had only seven in total.
Midway through the second, things were not a lot better for the home team. They had ten shots to Chicago’s 18, and the Ducks’ big line was frustrated. Corey Perry kicked the door to the bench as he entered it at one point.
The fourth line once more came up, and they had a couple of good shifts. Then came the shift when everything changed. It happened with about three minutes to go. It began with the shots having gotten to Ducks 20, Blackhawks 19, and here’s what transpired:
Perry and Maroon buzzed around the zone and Maroon fired a shot. Then Getzlaf and Maroon did the same thing. Then Getzlaf took a puck off the boards about eight feet inside the blueline, and he faked a slapper, delayed, and fired a wrist shot with Perry in front. That man got a tip, and the puck went in. The shots were 24-19, and on the strength of this, the Ducks came alive. They passed the puck all over the Chicago zone at will, and the second line of Silfverberg, Kesler, and Beleskey got two shots. The Ducks’ defense resumed their familiar risky game of being in behind the opposition’s net, a forward going high to the blueline with no fear of losing the puck.
Chicago took a penalty in the late going, and at one point, the four Chicago defenders were in the corner. All four! And they let Sami Vatanen alone in the slot. The puck came to him, with so much time he could have made a sandwich. The puck bounced off him and right to goalie Crawford.
Period three settled nothing, and one notable thing about it was that the Chicago coach double-shifted his best line on the night, the Hossa, Toews, and Saad group. All evening, they had been checked by Kesler’s line, successfully.
It was 2-2, and OC fans were glad that the game had started at 6PM, because they’re notoriously early to bed. The OT started with the Ducks having 34 shots and Chicago 28, and it ended with the Ducks having 43 and the Hawks 36. Do the math and that’s just one different in the frame, Anaheim registering nine to the guests’ eight.
And while I think fancy stats are more or less a poor guide to what actually happens on the ice, this simple math of shot totals tells you what happened in the first OT. Both teams played quite well, and the chances were even on both sides.
Except for one thing. The Hawks’ goalie lost his stick in the late going with the Ducks’ fourth line on the ice. They had the chance to fire away at him, but instead of doing so, the defensemen passed the puck across the blueline instead of getting the puck to the net. Opportunity squandered, and the period ended with no score.
So did the next one, with three notable things for you to consider. One, a puck did go in the Anaheim net. Problem for Chicago was that it was head butted in from the crease, and though the Blackhawks came off their bench to celebrate, they were sent back when the referees decided that this was illegal.
Way before that, Andrew Shaw had had a great chance in front of the net with a one-timer. Andersen made a fantastic save. Then in the late going, Corey Perry had a puck in the slot and cruised in closer towards Crawford before firing his shot. It was saved. And while we’re on Perry, he had essentially the same chance again in the very late going. This time, he shot wide.
That was thing number two to consider. Thing three? The shots in the period began with the Ducks ahead 43-36, proceeded to get even at 45-45, and ended with the Ducks ahead by the same margin they had been ahead at the puck drop, with the total now 57-50.
Another OT began fifteen minutes later. It didn’t seem that long, so imagine how the players felt. The third OT was essentially wide open hockey, when anybody had the energy to actually move the puck. Often, a guy would be able to get it to his blueline and then, looking over and realizing that nobody was with him, would get to center and dump it in. Occasionally, one team would be able to pin the other in their end, and this is when the chances came.
Silfverberg got a puck in front, but it bounced on him and he squibbed the shot. The puck came to Palmieri in the slot and he got a turnaround wrister, saved. He got another chance in front and took a snap shot which Crawford made an arm save on, one of a large portfolio of them on the night. His coach said after, “Corey battled. He’s a battler and he did that all night.”
That didn’t set up the game winner (any more than a dozen others), but it did allow for the Blackhawks to get down to the Ducks’ end, where a puck came off the boards and was shot by Seabrook on a one-timer. Marcus Kruger was in front, and he let the puck hit off his arm, then batted it out of the air and into the net. The shots were 62 Anaheim, 56 Chicago.
Andrew Cogliano described the feeling of participating in such a game: “You’re drained, and the game plans on both teams get a little bit lax. You’re out so long—your legs—we’ve got to recover.”
Half in jest, Joel Quenneville of the Hawks said in his press conference, “Those ten days off we had coming into the series . . . ,” not finishing the thought. “It’s as intense a game as I’ve ever been part of. Both teams had some excellent chances to win the game, and end it over different times or different periods. We love the battle, and Krugs gets a big goal because he’s a warrior, but I commend everybody.”
He added, “We stuck with it. The bench was sharp, and everybody played the right way as long as we had to play.”
The Ducks were sedate in their reactions, vowing to put themselves to work in the morning and start again. Cogliano said, “We’re competing with them as good as you possibly can, unless you put in a 60-minute effort—or ah, un 120 minutes tonight, you won’t win.”
Patrick Maroon said, “Tomorrow’s a new day.” In fact, he said it twice, which is a sure giveaway that that’s precisely what Boudreau had said to the team in the locker room after the game. Of the feeling of being in the game, he said, “You want to go back out there and keep trying. You want to keep coming at them and coming at them.” He sounded like his old self, but in all honesty, his eyes were half closed in fatigue.
Boudreau was sanguine, saying in summary, “Well, you know eventually someone’s going to get one.”
Of course, nobody was blaming the goalie. In fact, Maroon went out of his way to take the pressure off Andersen. “Freddie was excellent. It’s not his fault. The puck goes off someone. There’s nothing he can do.”
Chicago has never played a game this long. Ever, in 84 years.
It’s the longest game in Ducks home history, but they had a 5OT game in Dallas in 2003.
In terms of minutes, Keith got nearly 50 minutes, and the other three big D of the Ducks had 46 or 47. Newcomer Cuminskey had 18 and Timonen 16. A reporter asked the coach of Chicago about the impact of this for the future, but he got nothing substantial as an answer.
If you’re not too tired, read one of my books. Growing Up Hockey is the first, and relevant still. Facing Wayne Gretzky is the new one. Thanks.