NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks Game 7 Preview

Jonathan ToewsAfter an exciting first six games, the Western Conference Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks, all comes down to a final, do-or-die, game seven (8pm ET, Saturday on NBC).

Throughout this year’s NHL Playoffs, there have been an incredible amount of games that have gone into overtime. This series alone has seen three of the first six require at least the extra five minute period with one needing two overtimes to crown a winner. Combined, the Ducks and Blackhawks have played eight overtime games this postseason. Chicago has won all but one of the five they have played while Anaheim has lost three of six.

So what exactly does this tell us? For starters, the overtime games have been a result of incredibly clutch, last minute, and rapid goal scoring. The Ducks have thrived on that very concept alone, recording three goals scored in 37 seconds in game four and following that up with two goals in 32 seconds in game five. But they aren’t the only ones. Chicago forced the overtime in game five with two goals in less than two minutes, both scored by captain Jonathan Toews (pictured).

The Toews-Patrick Kane line has been a revelation for the Blackhawks since it formed years ago and has contributed to their playoff goal scoring prowess for quite some time. This year is no exception. Together, the two have combined for 17 goals and 16 assists, the most of any two linemates of remaining playoff teams. In game four, it was Kane who scored the game-tying goal to force overtime, which was won by the Blackhawks after 2OT.

In addition to the impressive ability to almost score on command that both of these teams seem to possess, their postseason success has been marked by above average goal tending.

For the Ducks, that man is 25-year-old Frederik Anderson.  Anderson, in just his second year in the league, is posting an 11-4 record this postseason, with only one of those losses, Game 6 against the Blackhawks, being registered in regulation. Anderson has a 2.18 GAA and a tick under 92 save percentage. Both of these areas are improvements for Anderson over last year, where he went just 3-2 in the playoffs with a 3.10 GAA and under 90 save percentage.

For the Blackhawks, seven year veteran Corey Crawford, is the man behind the net. Crawford is 8-4 in his 12 starts this postseason with a 2.53 GAA and just under 92 save percentage as well. This is the third consecutive playoffs for Crawford in which he has posted a GAA under 2.60 and in which he has won at least 50% of his games started.

Chicago’s Veteran Presence

Crawford is just one example of the veteran presence that the playoff-tested Blackhawks possess. This is the team’s seventh consecutive year having made the playoffs and their third consecutive year of having reached at least the Conference Finals. Last year, Chicago fell in game seven of the Western Conference Finals, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion LA Kings. The experience in the loss was a notable one and has proved to be fuel to the fire this year.

Chicago came so close to reaching the Cup Finals and they are in the exact same situation this year. The Ducks have been a valiant opponent but if there is one thing to put Chicago over the top it is last year’s failure. The way the season ended, Chicago doesn’t want to see that happen again. In forcing a game seven, it was clear this team has no quit in them and that they will do whatever it takes to see this year not be a repeat of last.

Of this veteran team, all of the main guys from the 2009-10 and 2012-13 Stanley Cup winning rosters, have returned. Kane, Toews, Crawford, Duncan Keith. They’ve all been down this road before. Game seven is a different animal, especially in hockey. I have to think that the Blackhawks experience in game sevens and their overall experience in high-energy and high-intensity playoff games, will be a deciding factor. Both the Blackhawks and the Ducks have the talent, but the Ducks, making just their first Conference Finals since winning it all back in the 2006-07 season, boast a young team. Not many holdovers from that championship winning squad remain and the most important player, the goaltender, is in just his second year in the league. That is just another area where Chicago has the edge as Crawford has not only been in this position but that he has won these games before and did so with some of the best play of his career.

As much as it seems that the Blackhawks could be headed for trouble if they reach the Cup Finals, it is tough to bet against their experience and their talent. Toews and Kane have been a force during the team’s extended postseason run and continue to be. And Crawford, another key cog of those championship teams, continues to defend the net as a top notch goaltender should. The Ducks are good but they lack that X-Factor of experience, which truly is underrated.

Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks Preview’s Betting Picks

Expect this game to be yet another close one, something that favors Chicago. The biggest thing Anaheim has in addition to Corey Perry, who is one of the few with championship level experience and who currently has 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) in the postseason, is that home field advantage.

The team has lost just one home contest this postseason, not coincidentally however; it came in overtime, against the Blackhawks. So if anyone can beat the Ducks at home it is Chicago. Expect that to happen Saturday night.

  • Bet on the Chicago Blackhawks straight up to get the win on the moneyline @ best betting odds of +115 with BetOnline or 5Dimes sportsbooks. They can advance to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the winner of the other game seven in the Eastern Conference, between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning.