For additional insight into the Anaheim Ducks during the Western Conference Final, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Frederic Chabot to break down the action. Chabot will be checking in throughout the series.
Chabot was the goaltending coach for the Edmonton Oilers from 2009 to 2014. He played in the NHL for five seasons, spending time with the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings.
Part of the Anaheim Ducks' identity is using their size to play a physical, in-your-face brand of hockey. It begins with the Ducks' top forward line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon, three players with an average size of 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.
It's part of what helped the Ducks win the net-front battles against the Chicago Blackhawks through the first five games of the Western Conference Final. But in Game 6 on Wednesday it was the Blackhawks who flipped the script, according to Frederic Chabot, winning the battles in the trenches en route to a 5-2 win that evened the best-of-7 series at 3-3 and forced Game 7 on Saturday in Anaheim (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
"Chicago made [Ducks goalie Frederik] Andersen's life difficult," Chabot said. "He had more traffic, he constantly had sticks and bodies to fight through and there was always the possibility of a backdoor pass or deflections. So it was not an easy game for Andersen. On the other hand, [Blackhawks goalie Corey] Crawford, who I think has been the most consistent player for Chicago, had a really good game but also he had lots of help. Andersen I think was better Monday [than Game 5]. But he's going to need to be even better in Game 7."
Andersen had to battle through screens and work to get sightlines with the Blackhawks crowding the net. Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa scored to make it 2-0 after defenseman Duncan Keith outwaited a pack of players in front, finding Hossa stationed outside of the traffic, away from Andersen's focus.
Chicago forward Patrick Kane scored 1:17 later, deking his way into the slot before sneaking a shot through Andersen with the area around the crease crowded to make it 3-0.
"Chicago was more desperate and they made some adjustments to the way they attacked and the way they transitioned," Chabot said. "They found ways to get through the structure that Anaheim has had in the neutral zone. And they found ways in the offensive zone to hang onto the puck a little more and make plays. Anaheim is going to make a couple of adjustments as far as its neutral zone and the way they need to stop Chicago's forecheck."
Andersen had come off possibly his worst performance of the playoffs in Game 5 on Monday, according to Chabot. After the Ducks took a 3-0 lead in the first period he allowed four goals on 25 shots during the final two periods of regulation, including two from sharp angles.
Chabot said he thought Andersen responded strongly in Game 6.
"Andersen started well because he didn't have a lot of shots. But there were a lot of quality chances early in the first half of the game. He made some big saves," Chabot said. "He ended up losing the game but I thought he bounced back and was solid the whole game. It could have been worse than 5-2; he made some really good saves early on. He needs to just keep doing what he has been doing; he needs to start strong again and I'm sure the boys in front of him are going to be better."
Much of how successful the Ducks can be in Game 7, according to Chabot, comes down to re-establishing themselves in front of each goal and their ability to match Chicago's intensity.
"At the end of the day I think it was compete level in the first half [of Game 6]; winning loose pucks and being able to win the net battles," Chabot said. "Early on, even though Anaheim had lots of shots, they were one-offs. There were no rebounds and there was not too many great looks."