Over the next several weeks I’ll be detailing the potential playoff opponents the Hawks could face this April. With the unprecedented amount of parity in the Western Conference, this means there are a boatload of teams to look at, as virtually no spot is secure. So I hope you brought your reading shoes, because there will be a lot of these.
First up, the
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Arguably one of the toughest matchups for any team in the playoffs, thanks to their gritty style, the Ducks now face an uphill battle to even reach them, with 5 teams ahead of them for their usual 8th spot, it’s going to take a solid run to even reach the playoffs, let alone find success. But if any team is capable of a such a run, it’s the underachieving Ducks. With a very talented roster, a host of playoff experience, and solid veteran leadership, this is a team you can’t count out until the magic number reaches zero.
Season Series – 1-2-0
This record may be a little deceptive in both directions. The Hawks’ lone win came at the expense of a Getzlaf-less squad at the United Center, with the now-departed J.S. Giguere minding the crease. On the flipside, it could be argued that Jonas Hiller stole a game the following weekend, with the Blackhawks unleashing 42 shots against just 12 for the visitors. Regardless of which way the stats swing, I think it’s safe to argue that this has been one of the tougher matchups for the Hawks all season. They meet again March 17th at the
Pond Honda Center.
Anaheim is again one of the most physical teams in the league, and can wear you down over the course of a series with big hits, chippy play, and high energy. They have underrated speed and use it effectively to neutralize the dump and chase and spring quality counter-attacks. Ryan Getzlaf is one of the best passers in the league. Scott Niedermeyer’s playoff track record speaks for itself, and don’t forget he just captained Team Canada to Olympic Gold.
This is a squad with a lot of miles on it. Niedermeyer 36, Aaron Ward 37, Teemu Selanne 39, Saku Koivu 35, and Lubomir Visnovsky 33 will all be key players down the stretch if Anaheim is to have any playoff success. With a loaded top line of Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan (who sometimes will drop down and play with Dan Sexton), the Ducks have plenty of firepower up front, but lack any real depth. Likewise on defense, where Niedermeyer and James Wisniewski are solid, but newly acquired partners Ward and Visnovsky will have to gel quickly.
Getzlaf’s line vs. Dave Bolland and Co. Simply put, if you stop the top line, the Ducks can’t hurt you. The depth simply isn’t there to weather a poor showing by that top line, so if the shutdown corps does its job, the road to victory will be much easier traveled.
Jonas Hiller. He’s emerged as one of the most consistent and reliable goaltenders in the National Hockey league, and has shown that he can steal games or at least give his team a fighting shot in games where they’re overmatched. Look no further than his recent Olympic performance where he stymied several good offensive squads and forced Team Canada into an extra round shootout. If Hiller cranks into that extra gear, there’s no series Anaheim can’t win.
Hawks prevail, but in a tough series, maybe even 7 games. This would probably be the second least preferred first round matchup, with the potential to wear you down for the rest of the playoffs.
In our next installment, we’ll look at the Calgary Flames.
About the Author
Written by Adam Seidman
Adam can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org