ANAHEIM – The Anaheim Ducks are a physical team by their nature.
But, when the opportunity arises to weaken an opponent with a physical attack, especially in what promises to be a long series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Anaheim will take full advantage of its opponent by playing the body as hard and as often as possible.
The Ducks were credited with 44 hits Sunday in a 4-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Honda Center.
Some were harder than others, like the hit by power forward Ryan Getzlaf that flattened Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook or the hit by pesky forward Ryan Kesler that temporarily knocked Chicago forward Bryan Bickell from the game during the second period, but all were with a purpose.
"We’ve got to invest in them physically," said Kesler, who finished with five hits, tied for the second-most on the team behind defenseman Clayton Stoner, who had seven. "When we got a chance to finish our check, we finished it. We didn’t pass up on any hits."
This was especially true when it came to the opportunity to put a hit on the Chicago defensemen. The Blackhawks were trying to shelter the minutes played by Kimmo Timonen and David Rundblad, who was making his 2015 Stanley Cup Playoff debut in place of Michal Rozsival.
Chicago’s top four defenders, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Seabrook, played the majority of the minutes for the Blackhawks. Keith played 28:23 and Seabrook played 26:47. That meant those players were on the ice to be hit more.
"When you get guys playing a ton of minutes, it’s going to wear them down [to be hit]," Kesler said.
It is a theme which will be revisited in Game 2 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) and throughout the series. It’s nothing the Blackhawks didn’t expect and it is something they will address in preparation for Game 2.
"They’re a good team, physical, good skaters," said Keith, who was on the ice for three goals against. "I think we could use our speed a little bit more and a little better."