Rest has been a focus (or at least a subplot) of many Doses recently, but I may have ignored the team who may benefit the most from a possibly brisk second-round series.
While I believe that the Anaheim Ducks can use all the breaks they can get, there’s no denying that the Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of mileage since winning their first Stanley Cup. Aside from their first title defense (in which they scared the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, but still fell in seven games), the Blackhawks have consistently gotten deep into each postseason in their golden age. In a league where the difference between victory and failure can be pretty slim, that wear and tear could be costly. The first round seemed to lean the wrong way for Chicago, as the Nashville Predators pushed them in a six-game series that probably felt pretty close to seven contests instead.
Of course, dispatching the Minnesota Wild in rapid fashion could give the Blackhawks a nice edge, especially if the Calgary Flames still have some magic spells to cast after another rabbit-out-of-a-hat win in Game 3 last night.
Anyway, it’s just my impression that fatigue may be that issue that maybe moves the needle ever so slightly one way or another. We’ll just need to wait and see, though.
FLAMES 4, DUCKS 3 (OT)
-- It just HAD to be Johnny Gaudreau, right? The Magic Man tied this game up with his net empty, on the power play, with about 20 seconds left in the third period.
You have to love the atmosphere for that moment, but more than anything else, I love that Gaudreau just went for it and took a dangerous (but courageous) shot. How many players would over-pass in that situation, knowing that they have a big numbers advantage (and also because most hockey players feel obliged to keep passing).
-- Anaheim created some dangerous chances in overtime via the usual suspects, but the writing really started to feel like it was on the wall for a Flames goal moments before the OT GWG happened (via Mikael Backlund). The goal came on a delayed penalty after some close calls for the Ducks. A lot of times you’ll see a team press and create chances in overtime only to see their opponent provide a piddling opportunity that ends the game, but this situation had more of a trading punches vibe.
-- Patrick Maroon scored the Ducks' first goal, and seems to be an interesting fit for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry when he's using his own power game alongside those two power forwards. The Ducks tend to tweak the dynamic duo's linemate quite frequency, but I wonder if Maroon should continue to be the guy more often than not heading into 2015-16.
(I don't think I need to linger too much on how beneficial regular work with Perry and Getzlaf can be for Maroon, do you?)
-- The Simon Despres - Ben Lovejoy trade always seemed weird for me from the Penguins' perspective, and Despres seems like he's been fitting in reasonably well in Anaheim. If nothing else, he's creating a respectable amount of offense in these playoffs, with five assists in seven games after generating two helpers in Game 3.
-- The Flames decided to bite the bullet and burn the first year of Sam Bennett's entry-level contract, as this was his 10th game (nine in the playoffs) of the 2014-15 season. I wonder if that's something Calgary may regret, as the 18-year-old loses out on some development time ... at least heading more rapidly toward a second contract, that is.
-- Both teams only managed 21 SOG. I wonder if Anaheim let up every so slightly with a third-period lead. After generating a 16-9 shot advantage through the first 40 minutes, the Ducks gave up 11 Flames SOG and generating just three of their own in the third period. That could just as easily come down to the Flames responding to a desperation situation as much as anything else, but Bruce Boudreau has to be sure to lean toward attacking more often than not (at least if you ask me).
-- It seemed like Micheal Ferland's issue is serious enough to keep him out of the action, as he didn't play in Game 3. On the bright side, it meant fewer references to a somewhat odd way to spell the name Michael.
BLACKHAWKS 1, WILD 0
-- Did Scott Darling's brief run in the cockpit scare Corey Crawford enough to kick his game into a higher gear, or is it merely a coincidence? Whatever the case may be he's won four straight, only allowing one goal on 61 shots (including Game 3's 30-save shutout).
Crawford has his critics, yet his numbers have been pretty solid to very good most of the time, and he's definitely a gem for fantasy owners.
Really, I get the impression that Crawford is like just about any goalie who gets a lot of playoff reps: eventually you get exposed here and there. Hey, even Patrick Roy had a rather stunning array of meltdowns to go along with his wink-inducing triumphs.
-- How ridiculous is Patrick Kane? He scored the game's only goal on Chicago's only power-play opportunity. With that, he now has six goals in this postseason, including this current run in which he has five goals in four contests (plus an assist). He's only gone pointless in one playoff game so far. This is a guy who probably shouldn't even be playing right now, yet he's not an outrageous choice for another Conn Smythe at this rate ... though I might lean toward Duncan Keith a bit at this moment (at least among Blackhawks, I imagine Corey Perry would take the cake if we gave a Conn Smythe out for overall excellence through May 5).
-- The possession stats argue that Minnesota probably shouldn't be down 3-0 in this series, and one may even venture that the Wild could be up 2-1 with the right bounces. That hasn't happened yet, though. Chicago has serious incentive to put Minny out early, as it's not as if the Blackhawks are blowing them out of the water (aside from Game 2, which was fairly lopsided).