NHL Western Conference Final Preview
We’re down to the final two teams in the Western Conference. The Anaheim Ducks proved to be too much for the Calgary Flames, ending their dream season by taking the series 4-1. The Chicago Blackhawks also made quick work of their opponent, sweeping the Minnesota Wild in convincing fashion. This will be a showdown for the ages, as both these teams are proven Stanley Cup winners and are two of the best teams in the league every year. With that, let’s take a look at this series and break down who will be heading to the Stanley Cup Finals in two weeks.
Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks
Prediction: Anaheim in six
This was by far the hardest series I’ve ever had to break down. Both teams deserve to win the Cup with their play this postseason, but unfortunately that can’t happen. Anaheim and Chicago have combined to go 16-3 this post season and have six scorers in the top ten after two rounds. There will be no shortage of talent in this series, and I expect it to be a physical series, but I have to give the edge to the Ducks
Anaheim cruised in the first round against the Jets and did the same thing in round two against the Flames. Corey Perry was clutch in the second round, collecting eight points (4G, 4A) in five games, including the series-winning goal in overtime. The Ducks also have the best power play in the playoffs (31.0%) and the better penalty kill of the two teams (ANA: 87.1%, CHI: 72.7%). There aren’t many holes in the Ducks game, but if any team can find a way to win games in the playoffs, it’s Chicago
The Blackhawks outscored the Wild in their series 13-7 en route to an easy series win. Patrick Kane was by far their best player in that round, scoring five goals in four games and is currently on a seven-game point streak. Kane has recorded at least one point in nine of his team’s ten games, and the Hawks will need that kind of production from Kane if they want to find a way to beat the high flying (Mighty) Ducks.
Just like the Eastern Conference Final, the series will be won, or lost, in nets. Frederik Andersen has been lights out since the beginning of the playoffs, sporting a 1.96 GAA and a .925 SV%. He hasn’t had to steal a game yet for the Ducks, but his toughest task will be preventing Chicago’s superstars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp from filling the net.
Corey Crawford was much better in round two than he was in round one. The Montreal native went 4-0 in the second round, with a 1.75 GAA, .947 SV% and one shutout. There were questions before the series about whether Crawford should even get the start in game one, and he answered the call. He will need to continue his strong play from round two this round and will have his hands full with Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
In the end, the Ducks will prevail as the better team in this series. They’ve been the better team in the playoffs and look to be firing on all cylinders. Unless Chicago finds a way to slow down the Ducks top two lines (which I don’t see happening), their offense will prove to be too much for Crawford and the team to handle. One thing is fore sure: the winner of this year’s Stanley Cup is coming from the West. All that’s left to decide whether the Ducks will win their second Cup in team history, or if Chicago will win their third Cup in the past six years.
All stats provided by NHL.com