The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks, who will meet in the Western Conference Finals, have won three of the last eight Stanley Cups. While Anaheim last won the Cup in 2007, the Blackhawks have been arguably the best team in hockey over the last few seasons, having won two Cups in five years.
Are they ready to make it three out of six?
“There’s no doubt they’re ready, especially with the way the goaltender (Corey Crawford) played in the last round,” NHL on NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s healthy.”
After getting benched multiple times in the first round against Nashville, Crawford helped the Blackhawks sweep Minnesota in the Western Conference semis, allowing just seven goals in four games.
“Look, they have experience,” Olczyk said of the Blackhawks. “They’ve won two Cups in five years. They have depth up and down the lineup. Now, for the first time in the playoffs, they’re going to face a team that has almost as much scoring with two difference-makers in (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry.”
That duo has combined for nine goals and 18 assists in the playoffs, while Ryan Kesler has added four goals and five assists of his own.
“Kesler has played out of his mind in this series,” Olczyk said. “(Matt) Beleskey, what did he have, five goals every game in this last series against Calgary? He’s playing incredible. The kid (Frederik) Anderson has played really well. Their defense has played well for the most part. This is going to be the greatest challenge because of the offense that Anaheim can bring and also the physical presence. The Blackhawks have not seen a team (like this) yet in the playoffs.”
The Ducks have home-ice advantage, but Scott Ferrall doesn’t think that’s that big of a deal – at least not in Anaheim. If it were in Chicago, yes, but Ferrall, who lived in Anaheim, doesn’t think Ducks fans are that rowdy.
Olczyk, meanwhile, believes home-ice matters – at least in a potential Game 7.
“I would want that seventh game (in my own building),” he said. “Just as a team and as a coach, you get those match-ups in a Game 7. You want the game at home. I don’t know if anybody like Washington (is) going, ‘We’d rather play at the Garden for Game 7.’”
For Olczyk, the Western Conference Finals might be the most riveting series of the playoffs.
“This series has the makings of being everything that you want to sell the game,” he said. “You got unbelievable skills. You have superstars up and down. You have the organization that’s been the model franchise in the city of Chicago and the National Hockey League over the course of the last five, six years in the Blackhawks. The Ducks have won before. I don’t think there’s a general manager that did a better job last summer than Bob Murray. When you go out and get the best player available in Ryan Kesler, you bring in Nate Thompson, Clayton Stoner – big guys, heavy guys, that you want tot answer to your arch-rival. I don’t think there’s a team that had more pressure on them coming into this season and the playoffs than the Anaheim Ducks because of how they lost to L.A. last year. This series, I really believe it’s going to be epic.”