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Three keys for Ducks, Blackhawks to winning Game 2

by Shawn Roarke /

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks made a statement with their 4-1 Game 1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, but they know it will mean little if they don't follow it up with another strong performance Tuesday.

"We're happy with the win, but we are going to have to be a lot better in Game 2 if we want to win that one," Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler said Monday.

Chicago, meanwhile, is a veteran club that has been through every conceivable situation, including being down in a series, during the current seven-season run which has seen it reach the Western Conference Final five times and win two Stanley Cups.

For the Blackhawks, one loss is no reason to panic. But they know they will have to be better in Game 2 at Honda Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). If they can steal a win Tuesday, the best-of-7 series goes to Chicago with the Blackhawks owning home-ice advantage.

"We have to have some urgency right here right now, and try to put some pressure on them in their building and go home feeling good about ourselves," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said.

Here are three keys for the Blackhawks in Game 2 that, if executed properly, will give them a chance to even up the series and head home to Chicago feeling a modicum of control.

Below also are three keys for the Ducks that, if executed properly, give them their best chance to move within two wins of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.


1. Silence top guns again

Anaheim's top line was not very effective in Game 1. Ryan Getzlaf managed two shots and a secondary assist on the empty-net goal. Corey Perry had two shots and no points, which was the same line for Patrick Maroon.

That trio had 35 points in the first nine games, so the ability to keep them off the scoreboard provides Chicago with the best opportunity to come out ahead when Game 2 ends.

"I think there were some good parts to our game where maybe we did keep those guys off the score sheet to a certain degree," Toews said. "I think we can do an even better job there. I think regardless of who is out there, we've got to recognize when their top guys are on the ice.

"I think anyone who happens to be out there, if we don't get the perfect matchup that we want, guys can do their job and fill in and check well. So we're confident in that regard. I think whether it's their power play or 5-on-5 play, I think everything will fall into place when we start working and getting back to where we were in the last series."

2. Protect the 'D'

Anaheim has made no secret of its desire to punish the Chicago defense, especially big-minute eaters Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, with the heavy forecheck that has carried the Ducks through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Chicago can't stop Anaheim's fleet of big forwards from barreling into the zone, but the Blackhawks need to slow them down, allowing the defenders a vital second to move the puck and avoid being pasted against the end boards.

"There's ways to impede a forecheck," forward Patrick Kane said. "Maybe get in guys' way where they have to go around you, not necessarily taking them out of the play. You can skate in their path and make them travel a longer distance to try to get to the defenseman."

3. Get creative

Anaheim has the last line change advantage as the home team. The Ducks have decided to deploy their shutdown line, centered by Ryan Kesler, against the Toews line.

In Game 1, it was hard for Toews to find much space, but it was also a similar story for Kane, who had trouble building up speed and creating separation.

One way to get the top guns going, especially after a long layoff, is to get them more ice time. The best way to do that is on the power play, which is struggling for Chicago at the moment.

In the past, coach Joel Quenneville has double-shifted Kane on the power play, allowing him to play with both units, and found success. He admits it is tempting to revisit that philosophy in Game 2, although he has no idea if he will do so.

"We could do that," Quenneville said Monday. "I think the game, the score, a lot of the variables, if Kane was fresh enough, maybe we could have used him a little bit more yesterday. But I think that unit, you know, [the penalties] came back-to-back, so it would have been tough to leave him out there for all four.

"It all depends on the stress, I guess, over the course of a power play if he's going to be out there for the two minutes. Certainly he gives you some variables and some real strong options with that possibility."


1. Wipe slate clean

Sure, the Ducks feel good about the win Sunday against the tough Blackhawks, but this team is veteran enough to know it is a long way from its ultimate goal of stringing together four wins.

Tuesday presents a chance to really dial up the pressure. A win and the wiggle room for Chicago decreases substantially as the series moves to Chicago. Lose, however, and the series goes to the Windy City with the Blackhawks having claimed home-ice advantage with a road split.

Anaheim says the margin of victory in Game 1 was deceiving. There was not a three-goal difference between the teams. Anaheim also knows Chicago will ramp up its intensity, so the Ducks can't pretend the effort they put forth on Sunday will be enough.

"We feel we have a lot more to give too. When you win a game, you don't want to overanalyze it too much, but there are a lot of things we feel we can do better and I am sure they feel the same way," Fowler said. "I expect to see another high-tempo, high-paced Game 2. We have to play that game like we are the ones down 0-1, we have to have that mentality, because if they go back to Chicago 1-1 and steal a game here, it changes the whole series."

2. Protect the house

In the wake of the brilliant performance by Frederik Andersen in Game 1, the Blackhawks trotted out the usual laments of a frustrated team. They said they needed to get more traffic around Andersen, they need to generate more rebounds. They need to take away the sightlines of the Anaheim goalie.

These are not ideal words, however. Chicago will come hard into the valuable real estate around Andersen. They plan to send forwards to the net and create havoc around the goalie, creating the chaos that will limit his effectiveness.

The Ducks know this could be problematic because they don't feel they were very good around their own net in Game 1 and if they don't raise their execution, the Blackhawks could have their way in Game 2.

"They were surrounding us pretty good," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They attacked the net as well as any team in the League.

"But, you know, it's something that we have to acknowledge and we have to get better at. I mean, we weren't very good in our net play. We've got to get better at it because, I mean, we gave up way too many opportunities in the blue paint. If you watched practice, we were working on it a little bit out there [Monday]."

3. Heavy forecheck

The effect of getting in on the forecheck was tangible from the early part of Game 1 and it only intensified as the game went along. The Ducks know Chicago is leaning heavily on its top four defensemen. The addition of Kyle Cumiskey into the lineup, if it happens, will do little to alter that equation. Keith will still play close to 30 minutes and Seabrook and Hjalmarsson will be above 25 minutes.

Those big minutes provide big opportunities for the Anaheim forwards to play the body and try to take away some of the skill of those top defenders. Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin knows the toll an intense forecheck can exact. He talked Monday about how as the target of a punishing forecheck, a player tries to get rid of the puck faster, leading to either turnovers or ineffectiveness in the transition game.

Anaheim saw some of that Sunday and knows if it can deliver 40 to 50 hits again in Game 2 the effect will start to become cumulative as the series continues.

"When they're only playing four guys, those guys are going to have a lot of minutes," said forward Kyle Palmieri, who set up his goal in Game 1 with a big hit on defenseman David Rundblad. "You want to make every minute as tough as you can on them. They had [Michal] Rozsival go down in the last round. It put a little more pressure on those top two pairs. We're going to do our best to just keep putting the pressure and making those minutes tough."

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