With Corey Perry at 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, and Patrick Maroon at 6-foot-2, 231 pounds, Anaheim Ducks have two large forwards who can cause trouble near the blue paint. They can use this advantage as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Game 1 of the National Hockey League's Western Conference Final on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
With their sheer size and contributions from Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks have the ability to control and produce goals in the net-front area. When Getzlaf, Perry and Maroon are on the ice, many of the goals they score are from the home-plate area around the goal crease.
Dominating the blue paint will be the key to Anheim's offense to limit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday at the Honda Center in California.
In an article written by Evan Sporer for NHL.com, he said that "in three regular-season games against Chicago, the line of Perry, Getzlaf and Maroon was intact for one; Dany Heatley and Matt Beleskey each played one of the other two with Perry and Getzlaf. None of the five forwards had an even-strength point against Chicago, Anaheim's top line was shut down, and the Blackhawks went 2-1-0 against the Ducks, winning each game in Anaheim in convincing fashion."
He wrote, "The Getzlaf line likely will be in front of the net in Game 1 against Chicago, and positioning and sheer size will anchor the line's offensive scheme. In the regular season and playoffs, Perry and Maroon each has scored the majority of their goals in the space around the crease. The heat maps below from SportingCharts.com visualize from where on the ice each player scored his goals."
But the Chicago Blackhawks can also pull some surprises on Sunday, especially after its goalie Corey Crawford has been showing spectacular statistics since reclaiming his job in Game 6 vs. Nashville. His resilience and ability to bounce back after a turbulent start at the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs have become one of his biggest assets, right up there with tracking pucks, timing shots and body position
Chicago Blackhawks Right Wing Marian Hossa described Crawford, "He's one of those goalies who's [very] strong mentally. One or two weaker games, or whatever you want to call it, it seems like he just forgets and starts looking for a new challenge. He can just shake off whatever, and it's amazing to see because not many goalies can do that."
After a 30-save shutout in Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center, a 1-0 Blackhawks victory in which the Wild dominated the third period, Minnesota coach Mike Yeo compared Crawford to Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. It was a stark contrast to what was said after Nashville scored nine goals against him in his first four periods of the playoffs.
"I don't think I was completely awful the first [series]," Crawford said. "It just took a little bit to get into it. I was out quick, lost the timing and when I came back, I got it back pretty quick. I'm feeling pretty good right now."
How Crawford plays, and feels, in the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks will go a long way to determining whether the Blackhawks advance to their third Stanley Cup Final in seven seasons.
Blackhawks vs. Ducks NHL Western Conference Finals Game 1 will begin at 3 p.m. PST/6 p.m. ET on May 17, 2015 at the Honda Center. Information on how to watch the Blackhawks vs. Ducks game on live stream free can be found below.
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