By: Nick Lanciani
2015 Western Conference Finals
Game 1 Sunday, May 17 3 PM EST on NBC
ANA- Round 1- defeated WPG in 4 games. Round 2- defeated CGY in 5 games. First WCF appearance since 2007 (the same year they won the Cup).
CHI- Round 1- defeated NSH in 6 games. Round 2- defeated MIN in 4 games. Fourth WCF appearance in six years (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015).
Anaheim Ducks have home ice advantage.
Frederik Andersen and Corey Crawford, two goalies that you probably wouldn’t expect to hear about in the same conversation, but they’ve made it anyway- all the way to the 2015 Western Conference Finals, in fact. It might not be as much to do with goaltending, as it has been to do with dominance all around for both the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks so far in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Ducks have had plenty of offense from their star forwards Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, and others, and so have the Blackhawks in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa. Perry is the leading point scorer of the playoffs so far with 7-8-15 totals in 9 games played. Kane is second with 7-6-13 totals in 10 games.
Anaheim has the best power play completion percentage, 31.0%, while Chicago ranks 5th in the playoffs. Both teams have scored 3.20 goals per game or more (Anaheim again leads with a slight advantage, 3.89 goals per game, compared to Chicago’s 3.20 goals per game). Meanwhile, the Ducks also have an advantage in goals against per game, 2.00, compared to the Blackhawks 2.80, which ranks 11th out of the 16 teams in the playoffs.
Of the teams that have played at least 8 games in the playoffs, Anaheim has 5 skaters ranked in the top 10 in Corsi %, with Hampus Lindholm the highest ranking Duck in 2nd with a 58.84 Corsi%. The Ducks also have four players ranked between 11th and 20th in Corsi% with the same parameters as above. Chicago, on the other hand, has four players in the 11th through 20th range, leaving only Montreal’s Brandon Prust, and the New York Rangers, Dan Boyle, as the other representatives from other teams 11th-20th in Corsi%.
While Corsi is usually a good indicator of offensive production, in terms of shot attempts for, and defensive ability, in terms of lowering shot attempts against; Corsi has rendered all but useless thus far in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Seriously. The Calgary Flames made it as far as they did with the worse Corsi as a team (41.73 Corsi%) compared to the best in Corsi%, the St. Louis Blues (60.49)- and they lost in the First Round.
The bottom line- this series will be wide open and highly competitive. We’re in for some great hockey. Anaheim has a plethora of defensemen to enhance their stellar goaltending from Andersen and offensive ability from Perry, Kesler, and just about anyone else on any given night as they’ve shown since Game 1 against Winnipeg back in the first round.
Chicago has Kane, Toews, Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Crawford, and oh yeah- other clutch players- Johnny Oduya and well, practically everyone else on their roster. If needed, Scott Darling has proven that he can hold his own in times of trouble (or basically anytime Crawford gives up a lot of goals, high, glove side).
This series really won’t be about who is the better team, but rather, who has the puck luck at the right time. At the end of the day, whether it’s Anaheim or Chicago, either team has a much better chance of winning the Stanley Cup than the New York Rangers or the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If the Ducks are going to win this series, it’s going to be because everything kept clicking; Perry, Kesler, and Co. need to keep the ball rolling. If the Blackhawks are to win this series, it’ll be because Kane and Toews began putting on a show all on their own and controlled the Ducks.