The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks have been to the Western Conference Final more often in the past decade than any other team, and they will compete for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final when their series begins on Sunday afternoon in southern California.
Before the series gets underway, we have five matchups that fans should watch for as the two teams hit the ice after a long lay-off.
Ryan Getzlaf vs. Jonathan Toews
Arguably the most intriguing matchup of this series (and the one that will see more ice time than any other matchup between skaters) is the one between the two captains. Getzlaf has been on an absolute roll during the postseason, racking up points and serving as an effective player in all three areas of the game.
Toews has been a similarly productive player for the Blackhawks, excelling in short-handed situations and really pulling his weight on the power play. When this series shifts to Chicago, expect these two centers to go up against each other frequently as the Hawks look to stop the Ducks’ potent top line.
Corey Perry vs. Patrick Kane
In a battle of wingers who are legitimate candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, we should see some serious offensive fireworks from both of these players. The two teams are both capable of playing an up-tempo style of hockey, and with Perry’s penchant for finding rebounds around the net and Kane’s dangerous speed, that ability to move the puck quickly should result in plenty of scoring chances for these two.
Cam Fowler vs. Duncan Keith
The Ducks don’t necessarily have a No. 1 defenseman in their lineup, but when you look at the combination of defensive skill and offensive punch, Fowler is near the top of the heap if not atop the pile. His speed is excellent, and he is definitely capable of creating chances in transition both with his passing ability and his willingness to take the puck in on zone entries.
Keith has a lot of responsibilities on the back end for the Blackhawks, especially with Michal Rozsival currently on the shelf with a broken ankle, but he is just as important to the Hawks’ offense. His stretch passes have really helped the Hawks’ offense to open up the taps so far in the postseason, and his willingness to shoot the puck from the point also creates matchup issues as teams scramble to get into shooting lanes to stop him.
Frederik Andersen vs. Corey Crawford
This battle of goaltenders seemingly favors the Blackhawks thanks to Crawford’s stellar play and gobs of experience, but don’t sleep on Andersen. The Ducks’ defense isn’t the stoutest group in the league, and Andersen has been up to the task when the support at the blue line hasn’t been there. He has yet to shrink from the spotlight in these playoffs, and he could very well prove to be a thorn in the Hawks’ side as this series goes on.
Bruce Boudreau vs. Joel Quenneville
Coaching in a series like this can end up being crucial, and both coaches have seemingly found the right combinations of players to get their offenses going. The Ducks’ second line has been a Godsend during this postseason, with Ryan Kesler centering the group effectively and allowing Matt Beleskey and Jakub Silfverberg to flourish on the wings.
Quenneville’s masterstroke in this postseason has been the assembly of the team’s third line, with Antoine Vermette seemingly finding his groove with Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen alongside him. The Blackhawks would surely like to get a bit more offense out of him, but with his penchant for winning face-offs and the fact that he’s allowed Andrew Shaw to slide into a more advantageous role on the fourth line, he’s definitely cementing a place for himself on the third line.