A thrilling back-and-forth series will be decided by maybe the most exciting term in all of hockey: Game 7. The Chicago Blackhawks fought off elimination with a 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Wednesday’s Game 6, pushing the Western Conference Finals to one final game for a shot at the Stanley Cup. The two best squads in the West will clash Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Heading into the decisive matchup, the Blackhawks may have most of the momentum and history is certainly on their side. Highlighted by center Andrew Shaw’s two goals and defenseman Duncan Keith’s three assists, Chicago lit up the Ducks for an early 3-0 lead and beat up second-year goalie Frederik Andersen for a third straight game.
Andersen’s surrendered four or more goals in three consecutive games, and the loss was Anaheim’s first in regulation during this postseason.
Before the conference finals, the Ducks had one loss, in overtime, and Chicago needed five extra periods in Games 2 and 4 to keep level. After registering eight wins in nine games in the first two rounds, and posting save percentages of .924 and .926, respectively, Anderson’s dipped to .919 against the Blackhawks. However, the 25-year-old Anderson did hold Chicago to one goal in Games 1 and 3.
On the flipside, the Blackhawks enjoyed one of goalie Corey Crawford’s best performances of the postseason in Game 6. Crawford stonewalled 30 of 32 Ducks shots to put Chicago in position to reach the Cup Finals for the second time in three seasons.
The Blackhawks, led by right wing Patrick Kane’s 17 points and 10 goals and Keith’s 14 assists, will enter the 13th Game 7 of the franchise’s history. Chicago’s gone 6-6 in its previous Game 7s, most recently losing to the Los Angeles Kings in last year’s West Finals.
Including New York and Tampa Bay’s final matchup in the Eastern Conference, it will be the fifth Game 7 of this year’s playoffs and thus far the home team has proven victorious all three times. However, two of the three games were decided one goal.
Home ice could provide a huge boost to the Ducks and might wipe away their spotty history in Game 7s. Anaheim’s gone 7-1 at home during these playoffs, but have gone 2-4 all-time in their six previous Game 7s. The Ducks have been eliminated the last two seasons after a Game 7 letdown, also falling to the Kings in last year’s conference semis.
But the Ducks do sport two of the playoffs top point leaders in center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry. Getzlaf’s served as Anaheim’s main playmaker with 17 assists and 19 total points, while Perry’s stat line is a bit more even with nine goals and eight assists.
Betting Odds: Via OddsChecker.com the Ducks are listed as 5/6 favorites. The Blackhawks are listed at 15/13.
Prediction: Anaheim over Chicago, 3-1