At this time of year you need big performances. It doesn’t really matter from whom they come: a role player, a superstar who’s used to doing it all time, whoever.
The Blackhawks got the necessary outings from guys in both those categories on Wednesday night, as they beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 and forced a Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals. So instead of us blathering on during these set-up paragraphs, let’s just cut to the gist and give you Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Game 6 victory.
1. Duncan Keith is a machine. It’s official: he’s not human. The defenseman who coach Joel Quenneville called “a freak” when it comes to his fitness level and ability to get better the longer he plays, Keith was tremendous with a three-assist, plus-3 night on Wednesday. Said Brandon Saad, “being around a few years, it’s something that’s expected, really. He brings it every night and the minutes he logs and the vision he has out there to have a patient game and make those plays you saw on the [Marian] Hossa goal it’s pretty incredible.”
2. Andrew Shaw’s critical goals. The Ducks had all the momentum in the third period, the one in which there wasn’t a whistle for about eight minutes. They scored early in the third to make it 3-2 Blackhawks, they kept pushing and they kept the Blackhawks on the defensive. Then Shaw scored the first of his two, giving the Blackhawks a 4-2 lead andgiving fans a chance to exhale. “They’re all pretty special,” Shaw said of playoff goals. “They don’t come around too often. You play good in your own zone, those offensive chances are going tocome.”
3. Getting more physical. Anaheim’s a bruising team, and part of their plan is to wear down the Blackhawks with a lot of hits. On Wednesday the Blackhawks hit back, recording 38 hits to the Ducks’ 43. Bryan Bickell had three on one of his first-period shifts. Shaw finished with a team-high seven hits. In our opinion, the Blackhawks don’t want to get into that hit-for-hit game; it’s not theirs. But for one night, they liked giving back what they’ve taken the past few games.
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4. The “man-child” comes through again. Yes, Brandon Saad is going to get paid handsomely this summer. Saad, who had three goals through his first 13 postseason games, has scored two in his last three contests. Both were the Blackhawks’ first goals of their respective games (4 and 6). Saad’s size and speed have been big factors down this series’ stretch.
5. Confidence heading into Game 7. The Blackhawks have it. Will it benefit them? The Ducks have failed to close inprevious Game 7s but this isn’t the same Ducks team of the past. They’ll be strong and they’ll be ready at the Honda Center, where they’ve lost just one game this postseason (Game 2 vs. the Blackhawks). Still, there’s something to be said for experience. “We’ve had some good games there this year and in the playoffs. But it’s like anything else: it’s one game, and it’s just a matter of going out an executing in the one game,” Keith said. “We have experience being on the road; you try to draw on that as much as you can and do the best you can.”