Ducks look to be Game 7 aggressors against Blackhawks


Ducks look to be Game 7 aggressors against Blackhawks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks liked what they did through those early third-period minutes of Game 6. It just took them too long to get to that point.

“I don’t know if it was nerves or waiting to see things happen,” said Ryan Getzlaf, “We were on our heels, not going forward, until we were down, to pour it on.”

The Ducks were pouring it on in that third period before Andrew Shaw thwarted their momentum, and their chance to close the series, in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 Game 6 victory. Now it comes down to Saturday night when the Ducks host the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.

[MORE: Blackhawks benefit from extra day's rest prior to Game 7]

Anaheim has been through this before. The Ducks have been asked and have answered questions about failing at Game 7s before. For them, however, it’s not about responding to previous Game 7s; it’s about responding to Game 6, in which they didn’t react to the Blackhawks’ onslaught in time.

“I think both teams in the first period [of Game 6] it was, ‘let’s see what the other team does before we react.’ And then we didn’t react and in 3 1/2 minutes they had three goals,’” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Once we scored, we thought, ‘oh, man, we’re in a hockey game. There’s a good chance they’ll score first, so we have to make sure we keep our composure, keep coming at them and not go, ‘damn, they scored. Woe is me.’

“We have to have a strong mental game tomorrow as well as a strong systemized game,” Boudreau continued. “[Being] mentally strong is going to be a big advantage for someone.”

The Blackhawks have used that mental toughness to get them through some critical series the past few postseasons. It helped get them out of the second round and to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013. It just about got them back there in 2014. As for the Ducks, there are enough players remaining from that 2007 Cup team, Getzlaf and Corey Perry among them, to know what it takes to advance at this juncture.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“We were waiting for something to happen last game. Eventually it did. We were on the wrong side of it,” Perry said. “I mean, if we play the way we did in Game 5 at the start of the first period and continue that all the way through, we're going to be good. That's the way we have to play.”

The Ducks didn’t like how long it took them to react in Game 6. It was a far cry from Game 5, when they came out and dominated and the Blackhawks were the group that wasn’t reacting fast enough. The Ducks know they won’t get anywhere if they sit back and wait. They’ve got home-ice advantage and a chance to exorcise the demons of Game 7s past.

“When we play to our capabilities, when we push the pace and we're on our toes, we feel like we're a difficult team to compete with,” Cam Fowler said. “We need to have that mindset tomorrow regardless of the situation or the magnitude of where we are. We need to come out as the aggressors. We need to stick with what got us here and take that into tomorrow's game.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?


With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.