The Chicago Blackhawks won the first leg of their postseason rematch slate on Saturday when they took down the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they’ll look to pull that off again on Monday when they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to the United Center.
While the Blackhawks have a 5-3-0 record and have won two straight games without defenseman Duncan Keith, the Anaheim Ducks come into the game with one of the worst records in the league and arguably the worst offense in the early going. In seven games, the Ducks have scored six goals and have a paltry 1-5-1 record, leading some to speculate that head coach Bruce Boudreau’s job is in jeopardy.
The reasons for Anaheim’s struggles are not difficult to pinpoint. The team hasn’t gotten a goal from any of its top-tier forwards yet, with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler combining for just three assists in seven games so far this season. That lack of production has led the Ducks’ to not only the league’s worst offense overall, scoring just 0.9 goals per game, but also has them ranked dead last in power play conversion so far this year, with a 5.3 percent success rate.
Despite those putrid numbers, fans in Anaheim have good reason not to hit the panic button. Aside from the fact that the team still has 75 games left to go in the season, and the fact that no team is really running away with the Pacific Division right now, the Ducks have been preposterously unlucky. So far this season, they are converting on just 2.55 percent of their even-strength shot attempts, which is a rate that is simply impossible to maintain. The Blackhawks had similar struggles in that department last season, but eventually things evened out and their offense chugged along merrily to a Stanley Cup title.
The Ducks are also getting some good defensive performances out of their club, as they currently rank first in the league on the penalty kill. Couple that with the 1.86 goals against average that Frederik Andersen is putting up in net, and it would seem that the Ducks’ struggles can be attributed more to bad luck and random chance than anything worthy of long-term concern.
That being said, the Blackhawks are well-equipped to keep Anaheim’s struggles going. After all, the team has looked solid defensively in the absence of Keith, with their forwards emphasizing forechecking in the offensive and neutral zones and their defensemen playing with increased awareness and discipline. Trevor van Riemsdyk has been especially effective, and Viktor Svedberg is making strides with each passing game.
Corey Crawford has also looked excellent in recent games, allowing three goals in his last three games and picking up his first shutout of the season on Saturday against Tampa Bay. The team’s schedule has allowed him to get regular rest in the early going, and the freshness is helping him as he’s made a slew of big saves in big situations.