After a series filled with heart attack-inducing overtimes and comebacks, the Chicago Blackhawks handled their business in regulation in Game Seven of the Western Conference Final.
As he has his entire career, Jonathan Toews stepped up in front of the brightest lights and played a stellar game to lead the Blackhawks to victory. Chicago’s captain scored twice in the first period to give the Hawks an early 2-0 lead, and the Ducks were never able to recover.
Toews first goal was off another Frederik Andersen rebound, an issue that continued for Anaheim’s netminder throughout the night. His second came a power play, a blast that made its way past Andersen; it was the ninth goal of the postseason for Toews.
Everyone anticipated the Ducks to come out with increased energy to open the second period, but Brandon Saad extended the lead only 78 seconds into the period.
The primary assist was the second point of the evening for Patrick Kane, who found a wide open Saad for the deposit. Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, who owned a sub-par personal effort after Game Six, was on the ice for the first three Chicago goals of the night.
Later in the period, Brad Richards put a hard shot on net that Andersen once again failed to control. He dropped the rebound and tipped the puck directly into the skate of a charging Marian Hossa, and it ended up behind the Anaheim netminder.
The goal was reviewed, but the league office determined there was no clear kicking motion from Hossa and the goal counted. It gave the Blackhawks a 4-0 lead, but would end up being the game-winning tally.
Ryan Kesler cut the lead to 4-1 with 69 seconds left in the second period, but Corey Crawford was doing a fantastic job of controlling the blue paint and limiting Anaheim’s offense by allowing very few rebounds. Crawford made 25 saves in the opening 40 minutes, 17 of which came in the second period.
Chicago was able to control the play for 11 minutes to open the third period, but the Ducks top line finally showed up when Corey Perry made the score 4-2 at 11:36 into the final frame. Unfortunately for Anaheim, the Hawks powerful forwards didn’t take their foot off the pedal.
Marian Hossa accelerated up the ice with the puck and Cam Fowler hooked him to cut off a would-be breakaway, giving the Blackhawks a late power play. Brent Seabrook made it count, scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs to extend the lead to 5-2. Kane picked up his third assist of the night on the goal, and Duncan Keith added his second helper of the night on the back-breaking goal.
Matt Beleskey would score a power play goal with 42 seconds left in regulation, but it was too little too late.
The Chicago Blackhawks won back-to-back games in regulation, and eliminated the top team in the Western Conference with a dominant Game Seven performance.
Keith blocked two shots with his two assists in 27:51 and looked fresh the entire night. Seabrook blocked three shots and finished tied with Andrew Desjardins with a team-high three hits in 25:24. Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked three shots and added an assist in 26:45 while Johnny Oduya led the way with four blocked shots and an assist in 23:53 of strong play once again.
For all the talk about Anaheim’s physical play weighing on the Hawks’ top for defensemen, the core four on Chicago’s blue line was exceptional the entire night – and series – and carried the team to victory.
One key to the game for the Hawks was their ability to turn the ice around with speed the entire night. The Hawks were able to exit the zone and carry the puck up the ice with ease most of the night, taking pressure off the defensemen and Crawford and keeping the puck in the Ducks’ zone.
Toews skated 21:16 and won 13 of 23 faceoffs with his two goals, one hit and one takeaway. Kane led the Hawks with three assists in 20:25 and was electric with the puck again on a line with Toews and Saad. The third member of the Hawks’ top line, Saad, led the team with five shots on net and added one hit and one takeaway in 17:51.
Richards finished the game with two assists and won half of his 12 faceoffs in the game. Andrew Shaw also had a good night at the dot, winning six of nine draws while Marcus Kruger won four of 10 as the Hawks’ fourth line once again did a magnificent job against the top line for Anaheim.
Desjardins skated 17:52 on a couple lines because coach Joel Quenneville put his $4 million anchor on the bench. Bryan Bickell was a ghost, skating only 4:22 and eight shifts.
Crawford finished the night with 35 saves against 38 shots in the win.
Chicago will play in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years and third time in six seasons.