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Game 7 Preview: One Game to Rule Them All

The Stanley Cup Final will be decided tonight.

Intense Kesler Face.
Intense Kesler Face.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

[Ed. Author Note:  I know it's technically Games 7, but that sounds and looks weird, so I'm intentionally going with Game 7s. -CK]

What We Learned From Game 6

Welp.... Here's what I had to say after Game 6 was over:

This may in fact be definitive proof that the Ducks are not the better team in this series.  Chicago put themselves in exactly the same position(s) the Ducks were in for Game 5 and reacted infinitely better.  Up 3-0, allow the team to come back within one, to give hope, score an insurance goal mid/late third period, goalie pulled with two minutes left: The Ducks blew it and had to risk it all in overtime, the Hawks closed the deal with an empty netter.  Not only that, but history may be repeating itself.  The last two years, the Ducks have had a chance to eliminate a team in Game 6 but failed to do so, then dramatically failed to win Game 7 at home.  There is no evidence yet to show that they have learned from that experience (as they have been saying ever since the end of Game 5).  That doesn't mean they can't pull out a Game 7 win, because literally anything can happen in a single elimination game, but think happy thoughts at your own risk.

The only part of that which may be a bit of an exaggeration is the "definitive proof" part.  Apart from that, two days of reflection (and explaining the situation to countless co-workers) hasn't really changed much.

Nearly all of the historical signs point to the Ducks coming up short tonight.  Despite being at home, where teams have a .588 winning percentage all-time, and the fact that Chicago is only 1-2 in Game 7s under Joel Quenneville, the Ducks are 2-4 all-time, 1-2 at home (with the win coming way back in 1997); Bruce Boudreau is 1-5 in NHL Game 7s and most importantly, the Ducks are 0-2 under Boudreau, both occurring in the last two years at home.  Of course, the Ducks are saying all the right things about the past being the past and only the 60 minutes (I don't think I could take another overtime) of hockey ahead are what matter and learning from the last two disappointments, etc., but that didn't help on Wednesday and it didn't help last year.

Also, one of the reasons Chicago has a losing record in that small sample size of three Game 7s since 2009 is that they've played 18 series and won 13 of them before needing a Game 7.  I suppose the positive side of that statement is that of the four series they've lost, 50% have been in Game 7.  In that same time span, the Ducks have won five series, lost four and three of those four have come in Game 7.

What Needs to Change From Last Game

Ryan Getzlaf not being "Terrible," as he claimed he was after Game 6, would be a good start.  While that may be a little bit of a tough self review, with somewhere between an even shot attempt differential and a 56.67% share of the attempts depending on your source (War-on-Ice vs. Natural Stat Trick, respectively)  it is true to some extent (see his pass to Brandon Saad in the first period).  For years (I'd say going back to the disastrous 2012 season) there has been that magical quality of leadershippiness that has made Getzlaf's play/demeanor rub off on the rest of the team, for better or for worse.

One good thing the Ducks have going for them is Frederik Andersen at home.  During these playoffs he's had a respectable .919 save percentage.  For reference, in the regular season he put up save percentages of .917 at home, .912 away and .914 total.  So, despite having his worst game of the playoffs in Anaheim on Monday, he's been very good at home this post season.  Also, to put a bow on history lesson above, Freddy has never played in a Game 7 at the NHL level.

Game Notes

The Ducks practiced with lower lines of Jiri Sekac, Nate Thompson and Andrew Cogliano as well as Rickard Rakell centering Tomas Fleischmann and Kyle Palmieri yesterday.  But Boudreau claimed that those were not necessarily the lines he'll go with to start the game.

The Hawks were still loading up the first line with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Saad as of yesterday's practice (per Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago), which could be beneficial to the Ducks trying to match Ryan Kesler against them.  However it worked pretty well in Game 5.  More importantly for Chicago, the defense was the same six as Wednesday (also per Myers) with pairings of Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook andKyle Cumiskey and Johnny Oduya with David Rundblad.

Fearless Prediction

Two words:  Projectile Vomit.