Anaheim Ducks' head coach Bruce Boudreau knows a lot about winning hockey in the post-season and has his Ducks if not in a row, at least well positioned to get a big leg up on their series with the Blackhawks. A win Saturday in Game 4 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET) would boost Anaheim to the verge of the Stanley Cup final as they are halfway to their goal.
According to Boudreau, 75 percent of playoff goals are being scored from within five feet of the net. Case in point, Andrew Shaw's power play goal in Game 2 in Anaheim that opened the scoring in a game where the Blackhawks would eventually win 3-2.
All five goals in the 3-2 Chicago victory were scored in the high traffic area in front of the goaltenders. On Thursday, when the Ducks regained the series lead with a 2-1 triumph, a Simon Depres goal in the second period stood up as the winner. It was a shot from well to the side of the net, but the traffic in front no doubt obstructed and distracted Corey Crawford in the Chicago goal.
Who's been the biggest goaltending surprise in the playoffs? You might say the Senators' Craig Anderson who relieved the Hamburglar Andrew Hammond and sparked an Ottawa comeback that extended the Montreal Canadiens to six games. Or maybe the Capitals' Braden Holtby, so strong in the seven-game second round series against the Rangers. But of the four remaining goalies, the Ducks' Danish Delight, Frederik Andersen is a strong contender.
The 25-year-old redhead from Herning, Denmark is only in his second NHL season. Last year his record in the playoffs was 3-2 and many thought he wasn't tested sufficiently against Winnipeg and Calgary in the first two rounds as the Ducks' offence overwhelmed their Canadian foes.
He's been tested against the Blackhawks and he's done well. Of course you couldn't blame him for feeling some fatigue after making 60 saves in Game 2 in Anaheim before Marcus Kruger, camped on his doorstep, ended the triple overtime thriller.
Two nights later, Andersen and the Ducks bounced back to regain the series advantage. Among his 27 saves was this one on Jonathan Toews with the score tied at 1-1.
The sizeable Ducks forwards have been wreaking havoc through the playoffs, usually from up close and personal range, none more so than the six-foot-three, 213-pound Corey Perry. He's right in there with the Lightning's Tyler Johnson in the playoff scoring race and several of his eight goals have demonstrated his determined approach to making things tough on opposing goaltenders. His Game 2 tip-in that tied the game at 2-2 is a perfect example.
The wide-open shoot-outs that marked early play in the Western Conference seem to have disappeared into the traffic jams in front of the nets. In Game 4, expect the crease crashers to determine the outcome.