What We Learned From Game 2
Hockey fans everywhere knew exactly what they were in for when this series began, and last night's marathon of a game showed everybody that their impressions were dead-on. This is going to be an evenly-matched head-to-head between two heavyweights who both refuse to give even an inch, and in this year's edition of the Western Conference Final, that could be all one team needs to advance to the final round.
Also, to anyone who thought this series was going to be a high-scoring affair (almost everybody): it looks like both Frederik Andersen and Corey Crawford don't want you to forget that they're here to play too. 113 saves between the two on Tuesday, only five goals. If they keep their play up on their respective ends of the ice, clean shots that beat them will be very few and far between. The importance of a guy or two parked in front of the opposing net for a screen, deflection, or rebound is always big, but it could quickly become a requirement in order to survive this round. On that same note, it also becomes increasingly crucial to have a defenseman on the ice that can properly help their goalie keep the outside of their crease clean by negating such opportunities. *coughStonercough*
And of course, most of us learned that you can't head butt a puck into the net.
What Needs to Change From Last Game
Those special teams. Woof. This matchup hasn't gone at all like it looked like it would have on paper. The iffy Blackhawk penalty kill is a perfect 100% over the span of 176 minutes, and the power play unit who dons the same jersey made the Ducks pay for two separate penalties to take a multi-goal lead just 6:19 into the last game. The Duck power play, one that looked fantastic as they left the Western Semifinal behind them, now appear completely befuddled whenever a two-minute opportunity is presented to them. On Tuesday night, they were struggling to even cross Chicago's blue line, and it looked so dysfunctional that Joel Quenneville probably could have kept his top PK line out for the entire duration of a penalty without worrying that they would gas out.
The Anaheim special teams deserve some credit, though: the penalty killers looked great after those first two setbacks, including the fulfillment of a collective prayer from Ducks fans after Chicago had a two-man advantage to play with for one minute and 48 seconds in the beginning of the third period. That being said, the power play needs to get the ball rolling in their end. If they can't, that special teams X-factor that looked like it would favor the Ducks could end up giving a game or two, and consequently the series, to the Hawks.
Yesterday was a travel day for both teams as everyone prepared for the series to shift up to Chicago. Since line combinations for Game 3 will not be announced until later today, it still doesn't hurt to get a healthy dose of speculation in beforehand. Our token statistician, Kid Ish, made his argument towards scratching Clayton Stoner in favor of James Wisniewski, and giving the Emerson Etem - Rickard Rakell - Jiri Sekac line, fondly known as Ricky Etem Cakes, some time on the power play in his latest edition of Playoffmetrics, and he elaborated on the Stoner situation over on Puq Mag.
Speaking of playing time for certain defensemen, our counterparts off Lake Michigan, Second City Hockey, put forth their two cents about their blueliners and loading their top four with almost an entire game's worth of ice time between them. Take a look at it here. This idea is a double-edged sword for both teams involved; obviously we'd like to see the likes of David Rundblad, Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey more than Hawks fans would, but their core of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya are much, much more qualified to handle the high-flying Anaheim offensive corps. Playing them almost exclusively means that the Chicago defense would have exponentially better success at limiting chances from all four Anaheim lines, but then, you run the very real risk of fatigue, especially if this series goes the distance (which it very possibly can).
Crawford doesn't come anywhere close to making 60 saves tonight. What a sieve, right?