Final Score: Ducks 4, Blackhawks 1
The theme of the first period started early, with a couple of terrible attempted breakouts. Less than two minutes in, after one of said terrible breakouts, the Ducks did in fact get the puck across their blueline and Ryan Getzlaf straight up knocked Niklas Hjalmarsson on his ass as he tried to bring it back in. The puck went to Patrick Kane and Corey Perry gave him a nice little whack on the hands that cost him two minutes.
Similar to the Ducks, Chicago's power play has never really been as good as you'd think it would be. Also similar to the Ducks, they've been better in these playoffs. This was the former. Ryan Kesler had the first real scoring chance during the Perry minor, heading up ice with Jakob Silfverberg, Kesler dangled through a couple of D-men but as the puck got to the net Corey Crawford kicked it off its moorings. Andrew Cogliano also had a nice carry into the Hawks zone but to no shorthanded avail. Chicago had one jam play at the net, but nothing else beyond an icing with a few seconds left in the penalty.
Just after the penalty Chicago had a little flurry of shots thanks to a nice play into the middle of the ice by Teuvo Teravainen, which ended with the Ducks conveniently knocking the net off. On the Ducks' next rush up ice Matt Beleskey got a shot away from the middle of the ice that Crawford kicked out in front, but Duck was there to take care of the rebound. Going back the other way Francois Beauchemin put a big open ice hit on Marian Hossa coming out of the zone, but Hossa took the hit to get it up to Jonathan Toews, ending up in an offensive zone faceoff.
The resulting shift included three, count ‘em, THREE failed breakouts/clears with the Ducks in full control of the puck. The third of said failed breakouts was a mishandled pass from Cam Fowler to Getzlaf that resulted in the worst turnover imaginable, Patrick Kane in a mini 2-on-1 against a flat footed Fowler from the top of the circles. Kane waited, pulled the puck to the outside, waited some more, got Frederik Andersen about 10 feet out of his crease, waited some more and when he finally shot it for a practically empty net, Andersen dove to juuuuuuuuuust get a stick on it and deflect it over the glass. Terrible, terrible defending. Lucky, lucky Ducks.
On a rare good exit from the zone Ryan Kesler stretched a pass across the entire neutral zone to Beleskey. He tipped it into the zone for Silfverberg and headed to the front of the net. Silf curled back at the faceoff dot and passed to Hampus Lindholm at the point for a one timer that found its way through Beleskey's screen and into the net. 1-0 Ducks.
For the next five minutes or so, the Ducks did a decent-ish job of getting the puck out, in comparison to the first 10 minutes which were absolutely awful, but only to see wave after wave of Blackhawks attackers come right back in with it. The Hawks' go to move was to get in deep, have someone in go to the net and just throw the puck across the crease. This seemed like it happened about 45 times in the first period, but it was probably more like four. The Ducks got it deep in the Chicago zone a couple of times but never really made anything of it. Perry did get one nice feed from Patrick Maroon behind the net, but his quick snap shot went wide of Crawford.
With about four and a half minutes left Rickard Rakell, Emerson Etem and Jiri Sekac (Ricky Etem Cakes!) had what was probably the best shift by the Ducks all period. Etem shot it in on net, then Cakes became a one man wrecking crew, knocking down Duncan Keith and stealing the puck. The pass eluded Lindholm at the point, but it was right back in before the Hawks could regroup. The next shift saw another flurry of shots from Chicago and brought the shot discrepancy to 15-5.
Chicago put in another shift that looked like a power play with about a minute and a half left, but couldn't actually get any of their attempts on goal. To finish the period the Getzlaf line finally put together a shift of offensive zone time, their best opportunity coming from Maroon dragging it in front, but Crawford was all over it.
Live, in arena, the period felt so slow that my wife commented it seemed like the relativity effects on Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar, where one hour equaled 10 years or whatever. The real reason wasn't a black hole, but Freddy Andersen stopping, holding and freezing everything he could possibly get his hands on to settle the team down. Smart, but stressful. Thanks to him, the Ducks escaped the first with a 1-0 lead, despite being outshot 16-7.
Twice in the first two minutes of the second period, the Ducks' defense was forced to swipe the puck away from a charging Patrick Kane. The bad news was he was coming in with the puck and speed, the good news was that they were able to get the puck from him before he made them pay. Simon Despres' diving poke check was a thing of beauty, but playing with fire a little bit.
After that the Ducks started playing a little better. Another good shift from Ricky Etem Cakes was fun to watch, especially Cakes' outright refusal to let the puck go in Andersen's direction in the neutral zone. That was immediately followed by a dominant shift from the Nate Thompson line and it paid off. Afer a couple of puck recoveries, Kyle Palmieri knocked David Runblad off the puck, Thompson regained it behind the net, threw it to the front, Crawford deflected it out right to Palms who shot it as he was falling and nailed the high glove corner. 2-0 Ducks. Though the eventual scoring play was a result of some great forechecking, Depres' backhand, exit pass against the grain to a streaking Cogliano at center ice was just gorgeous.
Side note: The Bear Brass rocking Bro Hymn after the goal with assistance from
17,000 16,000 singing Ducks fans, instead of the original Pennywise recording, is something to behold.
What a difference a clean zone exit makes. I know I'm belaboring this point, but the Ducks moved the puck soooooooooo much better out of their own zone and into the neutral zone in this period, it's not even funny. The other thing the Ducks did a lot more of in the second period was blocking shots, eventually getting in the way of 12 Chicago shots in the period.
At the 12:23 mark of the period, the Ducks went on their first power play of the game, when Silfverberg knocked a puck into the middle of the ice and was tripped by Hjalmarsson. The power play was back to its regular season ineffectiveness, although they didn't have as much difficulty regaining the zone after clears, they really just sat around the outside, not doing much once they got set up. Also Brandon Saad had a shorthanded chance that looked good as he was rushing up the ice, but only resulted in a backhand shoveled at Andersen.
Ricky Etem Cakes, with another long shift in the OZ. They didn't get a ton of ice time, but were doing work when they had the chance. This time they forced an icing and Joel Quenneville to call his timeout because Hjalmarsson was dead tired. The Ducks came back with the Getzlaf line and forced another icing, but third time was the charm to finally get that set of Blackhawks off the ice without any damage being done.
With only 39 seconds left, Beauchemin retrieved a puck right inside his own blueline and was pressured by Brad Richards. Beauch tried to chip it past him, but failed. Richards went in alone on Andersen and ripped it over Andersen's blocker. Bad turnover, forced by pressure, perfect shot. 2-1 Ducks.
So even though the Ducks cleaned up a lot of what was wrong with the first period, the dagger at the end of the second made it just as uncomfortable going into the third.
The final 20 started pretty well for the Ducks. Cogliano and Palmieri had a chance at the front of the net, but couldn't get it to go. But it was off to the penalty kill three minutes in as Despres put a bear hug on Teravainen. Two minutes and 45 seconds of the kill was really great by the Ducks; Getzlaf carrying through the neutral zone, then stepping into Hossa in the middle of the ice to stop the breakout; fast forecheck by Etem leading to a Thompson shot wide; but the last 15 seconds or so were a mad scramble in front of Freddy. One shot, high on the chest protector took a bite out of him, then he made two great saves, one with the pad on Saad, and one sprawling across with the glove on Bickell before Bickell inadvertently cleared it to the corner.
The Ducks went right back on the kill on the next shift. Kane carried in with speed and threw a backhand pass to Toews who got hooked by a backchecking Kesler. Good penalty to take. It was easily Chicago's best power play, but they were still only credited with one shot on goal.
Coming in three abreast, just after the kill, Thompson on the right wing centered it for Palmieri who just redirected the pass to the other side for Cogs who chopped it into Crawford's pads as he slid across. Then the Getzlaf line had a decent cycle shift, but couldn't get it out front for any shots.
Cogliano almost got lucky, throwing a puck to the net from a sharp angle, it got between the pads of Crawford and he had to take a look behind himself, but it rested just on the goal line. Only a couple of minutes later the Ducks would be rewarded by a similar play. Lindholm stretched a pass up ice to Cogliano that Keith nearly cut off, but couldn't handle. Cogs streamed in with it on right wing and fired off Crawford's far pad. Palmieri missed the rebound as he flew by the crease, but Thompson was trailing and finished before Crawford could get back across. 3-1 Ducks.
About two minutes later Andersen had to make three saves back-to-back-to-back. The first was a point shot from Duncan Keith off the right pad, then Marcus Kruger on the rebound off the left pad and finally Andrew Desjardins with his elbow/glove arm. Chants of Freddy, Freddy, Freddy broke out among the Honda Center faithful.
A shift or two later, Palms got in behind the D but was stripped by a great backchecking effort from Richards. Not hooking at all, perfect stick lift... Honda Center crowd, I'm talking to you. With just under two and a half minutes left, trailing by two Quenneville pulled Crawford for the extra attacker. The Ducks kept Chicago's six man unit to the outside well. About a minute into the empty net situation, the puck came to Getzlaf on the wall, he bumped it to Despres in the middle who went on a 2-on-1 with Silfverberg. Despres passed it up to Silf at the Chicago blueline he shot it, under pressure from Keith and hit the post, but it bounced in off of a pile of Silf, Keith, Despres and Toews scrambled back for it. 4-1 Ducks.
The Good: The Ducks improved as the game went along. Of course, there was plenty of room for improvement, but it was good to see the adjustments being made. Even more importantly with a one goal lead going into the third, and even after extending it to a two goal lead there wasn't much of a defensive shell being put up by the Ducks. They were the better team in the latter half of the game, still not enough to make up for the possession gap in the first, but much better. They also did a good job to keep Patrick Kane under wraps, that one insane chance aside. Depth scoring made up for the top players on both sides neutralizing each other. The penalty kill was really good. And finally, Ricky Etem Cakes.
The Bad: Beauch's ugly turnover that led to Brad Richards' goal. Richards made a good play to force it and a great shot to take advantage of it, but still avoidable.
The Ugly: That first period was terrible. They would have been lucky just to escape that period even, but were able to steal a lead thanks to Freddy and Hampus Lindholm.
3rd MVD: Simon Despres - One of only four Ducks not in the red on shot attempt differential (corsi), plus a few outstanding plays including that poke check on Kane and the breakout pass to start the rush for Palmieri's goal.
2nd MVD: Andrew Cogliano - Really as a proxy for his whole line, since Palmieri and Thompson reaped the rewards, but Cogs was just flying, as usual, creating lots of offense with his speedy carry ins. The whole line worked well together but I have to give the edge to Cogs for being the catalyst.
1st MVD: Frederik Andersen - The only Duck to show up in the first period. OK, that's a slight exaggeration Kesler was decent in the first also, but if it wasn't for Freddy this one could have been over early. Not only did he stop everything that came his way in the first, he did well to try and take the pace away from Chicago, even if the rest of the team was working against him in that.
Game 2: Tuesday May 19, 2015 at 6pm PT, Honda Center