Ducks Record vs. Blackhawks: (1-2-0)
Game 1: October 28, 2014: Ducks 1 @ Blackhawks 0
In the first matchup of the regular season between two powerhouse hockey clubs, it would turn into a goaltending showdown with Anaheim's young netminder, John Gibson, recording his second career shutout helping his team to a 1-0 victory on the road.
The lone goal of the game would come from (now-former) Duck, Devante Smith-Pelly who managed a shorthanded breakaway after 'Hawk, Brent Seabrook, tripped repeatedly over that pesky blue line. Of Anaheim's 25 shots on goal, only Smith-Pelly's unassisted shorthanded bid would slip behind Chicago goalie, Scott Darling. Yet, somehow that one goal, coupled with a pretty impressive shutout performance by Gibby, who got in front of all 38 shots from the Blackhawks, was enough for the Ducks to tally their eighth win in their opening 10 games of the season.
Even with Anaheim drastically outhitting the Blackhawks (37-16), doubling the number of blocked shots (18-9), and ending the night with a win, there were some dramatic flaws exposed in the way that the Ducks played in Chicago. Most notably, the Blackhawks completely and utterly dominated possession in the third period, out attempting the Ducks 17-7 in the final 20 minutes. Anaheim was also abysmal in the faceoff circle, with just one player, Andrew Cogliano, above 46% success (and he only took one faceoff, which he won so that barely even counts). The one-two punch down the middle of Ryan Getzlaf (won 5 of 12 draws) and Ryan Kesler (won 7 of 22 draws) ended the night with a 35.3% success rate in the faceoff circle..
So, even though this game ended as a tally in the win column, it's clear that the scoreboard didn't really reflect the other aspects of this game.
Game 2: November 28, 2014: Ducks 1 vs. Blackhawks 4
Anaheim's sluggish start in their first game after Thanksgiving (the standard Black Friday afternoon home game,) left the Ducks in too deep of a hole to pull off a comeback.
The first period saw the Blackhawks jump out to a 2-0 lead with one goal that I'm betting netminder, Frederik Andersen, would love to get back, and a second goal in which Chicago caught the Anaheim defense scrambling and thus took advantage of the situation when the Ducks lost track of Andrew Shaw right by the goal post. Hampus Lindholm would strike back once before the end of the first, however his goal would stand as the only goal for the Ducks on the afternoon.
For the second time of the regular season, the Ducks were outshot by a disappointingly large margin, however they continued to dominate the physical game, and this time the Ducks managed to win more faceoffs than their opponents, which was a good modification to see made. Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Nate Thompson would all end the night having won over half the faceoffs taken, Getzlaf and Thompson each recorded an impressive 64% in the circle.
Even though the scoreboard reads as four goals against, following a slow start to the game, Frederik Andersen got into his groove and end up making some absolute robberies of saves on the likes of Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane. However, the Anaheim defense, which was missing some big pieces (Beauchemin was out with a broken finger, Ben Lovejoy had a broken hand and Clayton Stoner landed on IR for coming down with mumps), there are no acceptable excuses as to why Patrick Kane was allowed to shoot eight shots on goal, two of which found the back of the net.
Considering the roster for this game included the likes of Rene Bourque and youngsters Josh Manson, Mat Clark and Jesse Blacker, hopefully this performance won't be repeated during the postseason. Simon Despres, I'm looking to you to bail us out when need be.
Game 3: January 30, 2015: Ducks 1 vs Blackhawks 4
Game three between these two squads felt a bit too familiar, with the Chicago Blackhawks controlling the pace of the game as well as the scoreboard from the early goings of the game. This time, the 'Hawks would manage a 3-0 lead going into the third period before the Ducks managed to get any offensive production.
Once again, Anaheim ended the night leading in hits, faceoffs won (thanks largely to Nate Thompson who was 8 for 10 in the faceoff circle on the night), and blocked shots, however would trail in some pretty important categories including shots on goal, and, ya know, goals.
After another semi-shaky start, goaltender, Frederik Andersen managed to lock down as much as he could do as one person, and tried to fight however possible to keep his team in the game and give them a fighting chance. In the third, a faint glimmer of hope seemed to flicker after a beautiful goal from Rickard Rakell on the powerplay, however it was not nearly enough to spark the full comeback needed in the last 10 minutes of the game.
As expected, Patrick Kane led the Blackhawks with a total of five points (4+1=5), while unlikely hero, Patrick Maroon managed a team-leading two points (0+2=2) in two games played for the Ducks. Anaheim was outshot collectively in these three contests 71-108, a trend that could spell death if it continues into this post-season matchup. Some weak points for each team are seen in +/- ratings (as archaic as this stat is nowadays), with Saad and Hossa each accredited with -2 ratings, and Anaheim's captain sitting lowest on the team with a seriously depressing -5 rating (while Patrick Kane cackles from the standings above with his team-leading +7 rating).
And that's enough of the trip down that depressing path.
Click here. Your smile back? Good. Let's try to get back to the brighter side of things.
Let's continue to remind ourselves that these three games were played well before Anaheim's trade deadline overhaul which saw the departure of Rene Bourque, Ben Lovejoy, Eric Brewer, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Mat Clark, coupled with the arrival of Simon Despres, James Wisniewski, Jiri Sekac and Tomas Fleischmann amongst others.
To say that the blue line got a much needed face lift and overall boost is quite the understatement, however it has yet to be tested against this intimidating Chicago team, and so who knows if the blue line corps will live up to all our (or at least my) hopes and dreams.
One thing can't be ignored: this is the battle of two heavyweights, two pretty crazy stacked rosters, two talented netminders, and two teams who are hungry for victory and seemingly will do whatever it takes in order to reach that Stanley Cup Final. I don't know about the rest of you but I've already been losing sleep over this matchup.
Hold onto your boots, ladies and gents. It's going to be a bumpy ride.