One of the great things about the Stanley Cup playoffs is that when it comes to overtime — and especially double-, triple- or even quadruple-overtime — it’s rarely the player you would expect to get the game-winner that eventually ends the game. Case in point: Chicago’s Marcus Kruger can now add triple-overtime hero to his resume.
In the role Kruger plays on the Blackhawks, he’s not exactly what one would call a sniper or a star. He’s a bottom-six center — one of the best in the league, at that — with some nice offensive tools that doesn’t find the back of the net very often. Granted, he’s usually playing out of his own zone which makes it tougher to score, but that he scored seven goals in 81 games doesn’t put visions of him scoring an overtime-winner into one’s head.
That’s why it was surprising when, of all people, Kruger found himself alone at the side of the Anaheim Ducks goal in triple overtime and evened the Western Conference final at one game apiece:
The Chicago Blackhawks played nearly two full games of hockey Tuesday, and by the time Game(s) 2 ended – four hours and 53 minutes after it began in Anaheim – they dodged a number of bullets and beat the Ducks to pull even in their Western Conference Final series.
The Hawks were outplayed by the Ducks for long stretches at Honda Center and Anaheim was the better possession team on the night. Chicago did storm out of the gate with a 2-0 lead on goals from Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa, but Anaheim cut Chicago’s lead in half before the first intermission and dominated the visiting team in the second period, outshooting the Hawks 19-7 and tying the game on Corey Perry’s eighth of the playoffs.
From then on, it was a goaltending duel for the ages, with both Corey Crawford and Frederik Andersen coming up with a number of huge saves to keep their team alive. The game nearly ended in the second overtime period when Andrew Shaw head-butted – that’s correct, head-butted – the puck past Andersen: Read more
Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw had scored just one time in 11 playoff games this year before Tuesday’s action, but he came through early in Game 2 of Chicago’s Western Conference Final series against Anaheim with a slick deflection on a Duncan Keith shot that gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
Shaw, who had 15 goals and 26 points in 79 regular-season games for Chicago this season, positioned himself in front of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and redirected a blast by Keith to give the Blackhawks a power-play goal just 2:14 into the first period: Read more
No small deal has been made about the Anaheim Ducks’ ability to continually produce quality goaltenders, but it’s hard to imagine anyone, even Frederik Andersen himself, could have imagined just how much his play in the post-season would improve in one year.
Thought to be possibly the only weak spot on an Anaheim roster that challenged for the top seed in the Western Conference all season, Andersen has done more than simply prove his mettle for the Ducks. Against the Winnipeg Jets, he kept the games close enough for the Ducks to steal victories. In the second round against the Calgary Flames, he outdueled former stablemate Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo. Now, against Chicago, he has shown that it’s going to take supreme skill if the Blackhawks are going to beat him. But last season, it didn’t look like it would always be this way. Read more
The Anaheim Ducks’ Game 1 game-winning goal didn’t come off the stick of Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf, but rather Kyle Palmieri. Thanks to the NHL, you can hear the Ducks — and Nate Thompson who got the primary assist — go wild during the on-ice celebration of Palmieri’s tally.
Thompson, who also notched the third goal of the game for the Ducks, was the most vocal of the celebrators as the Ducks crowded around a downed Palmieri. Check it out:
If Game 1 is at all telling about how the rest of the Western Conference final is going to go, the Chicago Blackhawks are going to have to start capitalizing on their opportunities or the Anahiem Ducks could be moving on to the Stanley Cup final in a hurry.
While the familiar names on the Ducks, the stars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, didn’t factor into the scoring, it was the depth players who made the most of every opportunity afforded to them to change the game’s outcome. And if all four lines for the Ducks continue to click, the Blackhawks will need to find some way to answer. Read more
One of the big matchups in the Western Conference final is going to be Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen against the collective firepower of the Chicago Blackhawks, and in Game 1 of the series Andersen stole the show early.
Following an Anaheim turnover inside their own blueline, Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane jumped all over the loose puck and had a clear path to the net. Kane, the ever-patient sniper, waited out Andersen until it looked as if he had the netminder entirely out of position and a wide open net to shoot at. That’s when Andersen reached out his paddle and denied Kane with what could stand as the save of the series for the entire round:
Stars always step up in the post-season, but the difference most years between a team that makes it to the finals and a team that falls shy of the last round is generally the play of their depth players. In some years, the depth players can even make all the difference. Take Darren McCarty or Mike Rupp, for instance.
McCarty, never the most offensively skilled of players, had one of the greatest games of his career in the Western Conference final in 2001-02. In Game 1 of the Western final that post-season, McCarty, who had scored just five goals and 12 points in 62 regular season games, notched a hat trick to help the Red Wings take the opening contest. Detroit wouldn’t look back, going on to their third Stanley Cup victory in three years.
For Rupp, it was one goal, the first playoff goal of his career, which made him a depth hero for the New Jersey Devils in 2002-03. Over the course of his entire 610 game career, Rupp scored only 54 goals. Having never scored a playoff goal in his career, Rupp found himself in the Devils lineup for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
In Game 7, Rupp opened the scoring 2:22 into the first period. He assisted on the Devils’ second goal to make it 2-0. And with time winding down, it was Rupp who found Jeff Friesen and got the primary assist on the goal that made it 3-0. To this day, Rupp remains the only player in NHL history to have his first career post-season goal be the Stanley Cup winner.
With only two rounds left, who are the depth players that could step up for the remaining clubs? Read more