Blackhawks

Blackhawks-Ducks: Who has edge in the Western Conference Final?

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Blackhawks-Ducks: Who has edge in the Western Conference Final?

You’re tired of waiting, we know. So are we. It’s been another long layoff between rounds for the Blackhawks, who will finally – finally – begin the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday afternoon.

This series promises to be a tough one – OK we said the same thing heading into the Wild-Blackhawks series but go with us again. The Ducks are strong and physical; the Blackhawks are fast and experienced. Both teams have their stars, their goal scorers. Both made quick work of their second-round foes.

So, who has the edge? We thought you’d never ask.

FORWARDS

The Ducks got a lot stronger up the middle this offseason when they acquired Ryan Kesler (the Blackhawks were in the mix, too). He’s been a point-a-game guy this postseason, and that includes four goals. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are big scoring threats on the Ducks’ top line; Perry has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) while Getzlaf has 12 (two goals, 10 assists). Matt Beleskey, who had a quiet first round, had five goals in as many games against the Calgary Flames.

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks ramp up practice ahead of Western Conference Final]

All questions about Patrick Kane’s rust/recovery off that fractured clavicle were answered emphatically in the second round. Kane had five goals against the Wild, almost as many as the Wild itself (seven goals, two of which came in the final 2 1/2 minutes of Game 4). Jonathan Toews has also been steady with 11 points (four goals, seven assists). Patrick Sharp has nine points. Marian Hossa may have just one goal thus far but he’s always a threat to do more and has seven assists. Both teams have their firepower. The Blackhawks, with guys like Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen on a third line, have more depth. EDGE: Blackhawks

DEFENSEMEN

Anaheim is solid in this department with Francois Beauchemin, Hampus Lindhom and Cam Fowler leading the way. The Ducks defensemen have added offense in the postseason, to (Beauchemin and Lindholm each have six points and Sami Vatanen has seven, including two goals).

The Blackhawks suffered a big loss when Michal Rozsival broke his left ankle in Game 4 against the Wild. Coach Joel Quenneville tinkered with defensive pairs on Thursday, pairing Duncan Keith (who is a plus-10 with 10 points, including two goals) with Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook with Johnny Oduya and Kimmo Timonen with David Rundblad. Quenneville said he just wanted to see his options but let’s state the obvious: the top four are going to get the brunt of the action. Normally you’d be concerned with the extra minutes but after nine days off, they should be ready for more. EDGE: Blackhawks

[MORE HAWKS: Full schedule of Blackhawks-Ducks Western Conference Final]

GOALTENDING

Frederik Andersen was strong for the Ducks, recording victories in eight of his nine starts with a 1.96 goals-against average and.925 save percentage. Corey Crawford got past his first-round yips and was much better in the second round, during which he stopped 124 of 131 shots. In deciding this one we ask the same question that we did entering the second round: which Crawford shows up this time? If it’s the regular season/second round Crawford, this will be quite the duel. EDGE: Ducks

POWER PLAY

The Ducks and Blackhawks are similar here for one reason: despite all their talent, their power plays were underachieving during the regular season. In the postseason, things have changed. The Blackhawks did pretty well despite limited chances in the second round (two goals on six power-play opportunities). That comes after three power-play goals on a myriad of chances (19) against Nashville. The Ducks’ power play, however, has really clicked in the playoffs, recording an NHL-playoff best nine goals on 29 opportunities (31 percent). EDGE: Ducks

PENALTY KILL

The Blackhawks got better in this category in the second round; after allowing six power-play goals to the Predators they gave up three to the Wild, and one was a 6-on-4 goal in the waning minutes of Game 4. The Ducks’ penalty kill has been stingy throughout the postseason, allowing just four power-play goals. As much as the Blackhawks’ kill has improved, it’s going to have its hands full with the Ducks’ power play. EDGE: Ducks

[NBC SHOP: Get the latest Blackhawks gear here]

RUST FACTOR

This normally wouldn’t be a topic but since it’s been quite a while since both teams played, we’ll discuss. The Ducks last played last Sunday; the Blackhawks haven’t played since May 7. Oh, and both teams dealt with this after their first rounds, too: Anaheim had a week between first and second rounds and the Blackhawks had six days. How did it affect each team? The Ducks beat the Flames in five and the Blackhawks beat the Wild in four, so not much. Expect both teams to be clicking after this layoff, too. EDGE: Even

EXPERIENCE

Perry, Getzlaf and Beauchemin were all part of the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup team, so they know what it takes to get to this point. Kesler has been to a Cup final with the Canucks. The Ducks do have a good amount of youth on their team, however. How will they deal with the pressure that grows with each passing postseason? The Ducks will soon find out. The Blackhawks have two Cups since 2010 and have been to the Western Conference Finals three consecutive seasons. Having experience doesn’t mean a team wins, but it doesn’t hurt at this time of year. EDGE: Blackhawks

Stan Bowman: Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford 'progressing like he normally would'

Stan Bowman: Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford 'progressing like he normally would'

Stan Bowman likes where Corey Crawford is at this state of the offseason, he said Friday prior to the NHL Draft.

Speaking with NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle, Bowman noted that while Crawford hasn't begun doing any on-ice work, that isn't unusual for players this early.

"We’ve been in contact with Corey and I think he’s been progressing like he normally would," Bowman said. "Most guys don’t do a lot of on-ice work the first couple of months of the offseason.

"Typically they get back on the ice sometime in July, some guys don’t skate until August. I think that’s sort of the plan for Corey as we go along here. I would say he’s right on the normal schedule for the offseason and we’ll just see how that goes."

That's good news for the Blackhawks, who sorely missed Crawford a year ago. The three-time Stanley Cup champion appeared in just 28 games, earning a 16-9-2 record and a 2.27 GAA.

NHL Draft 2018: Preview, start time, pick order, live stream and how to watch Round 1

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AP

NHL Draft 2018: Preview, start time, pick order, live stream and how to watch Round 1

The Chicago Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons and are looking towards the 2018 NHL Draft to right the ship. The Blackhawks are picking inside the top 10 of the NHL Draft for the first time since selecting Patrick Kane first overall in 2007.

The Blackhawks are in a transitional period, with the era of talent that won three Stanley Cups on the back half of the bell curve in their careers. Rocky Wirtz already acknowledged changes could be coming and noted "nothing lasts forever."

Promising young talent from the 2018-19 season, like Alex DeBrincat, are keeping hopes of extending this era of hockey dominance alive. Armed with two first round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks could help solidify the franchise's chances of competing for Stanley Cups for years to come if they land a top talent.

There were rumors that the Blackhawks could explore draft day trades, but general manager Stan Bowman said the team wasn't actively looking to make a trade but wouldn't pass up a great offer or opportunity. The Blackhawks hope to find a future star at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, home of the Stars.

NHL Draft Information

When: June 22-23
Where: American Airlines Center (Dallas)
Network: NBCSN
Live stream: NBCSports
Social media: @NBCSBlackhawks 
On-Site Reporters: Pat Boyle (@BoyleNBCS), Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis)

Round 1 Information

Start Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
TV Network: NBCSN
Live stream: NBCSports

Round 2-7 Information

Start Time: 10:00 a.m. CT
TV Network: NHL Network

2018 NHL Draft Order

1. Buffalo Sabres
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. Ottawa Senators
5. Arizona Coyotes
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Vancouver Canucks
8. Chicago Blackhawks
9. New York Rangers
10. Edmonton Oilers
11. New York Islanders
12. New York Islanders
13. Dallas Stars
14. Philadelphia Flyers
15. Florida Panthers
16. Colorado Avalanche
17. New Jersey Devils
18. Columbus Blue Jackets
19. Philadelphia Flyers
20. Los Angeles Kings
21. San Jose Sharks
22. Ottawa Senators
23. Anaheim Ducks
24. Minnesota Wild
25. Toronto Maple Leafs
26. New York Rangers
27. Chicago Blackhawks*
28. New York Rangers
29. St. Louis Blues
30. Detroit Red Wings
31. Washington Capitals

*-Acquired from Nashville in Ryan Hartman Trade

Blackhawks' 2018 NHL Draft Picks

The Blackhawks have eight overall picks in the NHL Draft, two in the first round. Chicago's second pick in the first round, at 27th overall, came from the Nashville Predators in the Ryan Hartman trade. The Blackhawks have two third-round picks, one from Nashville and one from the Washington Capitals (from Toronto) in the Michael Kempny trade.

Chicago doesn't have a second round pick because they traded it to the Montreal Canadiens in February 2016 alongside Phillip Danault for Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise. The Blackhawks traded a fourth-round pick to Dallas with Mark McNeill in February 2017 for Johnny Oduya, and added a fourth-round pick from Nashville in the Hartman deal. 

The Blackhawks' fifth-round pick comes from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Artemi Panarin trade, that also brought Brandon Saad to Chicago. Panarin has told Columbus he is not ready to consider an extension, putting Panarin back on the trade block.

Rd. 1: No. 8

Rd. 1: No. 27 via Nashville

Rd. 3: No. 69 overall

Rd. 3: No. 87 overall via Washington from Toronto

Rd. 4: No. 120 overall via Nashville

Rd. 5: No. 142 overall via Columbus

Rd. 6: No. 163 overall

Rd. 7: No. 193 overall

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NHL Draft Profiles

We examined the top 10 projected picks and how they would fit in with the Blackhawks.