Blackhawks

Boudreau says these Ducks are 'a more determined group'

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Boudreau says these Ducks are 'a more determined group'

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have a familiar lineup; they have their guys who have been here a while, from Ryan Getzlaf to Corey Perry to Francois Beauchemin.

Still, there seems to be a different mindset this season, as far as coach Bruce Boudreau can see.

“Determined is a better word than any I could use,” Boudreau said following Saturday’s practice. “They seem — and I don’t want to take anything away from last year’s [team] or the year before or the individuals still here — but they seem a more determined group.”

It’s an attitude any team needs to have to reach this level and to get past it. The Blackhawks have had it — well, and the talent — for a while now, hence two Stanley Cups since 2010 and three consecutive Western Conference Final appearances. The Ducks certainly have the talent. And if they do have that determination that Boudreau hasn’t seen previously, this could make for one tantalizing series.

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

The Ducks come with a strong roster, one that added Ryan Kesler this offseason to bolster their center group. The Ducks tied St. Louis for the best record in the West (51-24-7), swept the Winnipeg Jets and then beat the Calgary Flames in five games. The Ducks are back in the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2007. That year, they won the Stanley Cup. Getting back to this point is a big step for a Ducks team that felt it fell short in previous seasons.

“It’s huge,” said Perry, who was part of that 2007 Cup team. “For us to get over that hump that we’ve been looking to get over and finally reach it, there are only four teams left. That’s the exciting part.”

The Ducks had an extended break themselves following their series vs. the Flames. They had a physical practice on Saturday, and players talked about the structure they’ve had, especially this past week.

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“It’s been good. We’ve had our buildup, an approach almost like a football team where you have Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3, and you work on different things every day in preparation,” Getzlaf said. “We had our tough practice three days ago and the last two have been structural. We’re prepared. Everyone knows their role and everyone knows what they’re doing. Now we just have to play.”

The Ducks have enough players who have been here before. There also seems to be a new attitude or, as Boudreau says, a “determined” outlook. Now they’ll see if that, along with the talent, gets them over the hump.

“We’ve practiced a lot and they’ve been hard. These guys haven’t complained. They’ve embraced the practices,” Boudreau said. “There are a lot of the guys who are the same but after the last two years they’ve shown stronger fortitude when it’s come to the playoffs. The mindset has been tougher.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.