Chicago, IL — Finally tomorrow the Chicago Blackhawks will take the ice in Anaheim in the Western Conference Final in what seems forever to begin. The much awaiting and anticipated meeting could go down as being one for the ages with two teams of contrasting styles and characteristics.
The Anaheim Ducks are what I would term a counterpuncher or a rope a dope type of team. For those that don’t know what rope a dope is it is usually referred to in boxing terms.
It is when a boxer takes his opponents hits to let him wear himself out and then when his opponent is tired you deliver blows but they are so exhausted they can not muster the strength to fit back.
The Anaheim Ducks do not necessarily come out in the first two periods giving their best in fact it is the third period where the Ducks have poured it on. Just ask the Winnipeg Jets. Just when you think you have them that is when they fight.
They lead the playoffs in third period goals with 16 which is more than half of what the Hawks have in the third period which is 7. The Hawks start fast but tend to have problems closing and the Ducks are the opposite.
In that regards the Ducks are similar to the Kings, no matter how many goal leads you have they always seem to find a way to come back. Maybe there is something in the Santa Ana winds that make these teams play this style or they are used to playing each other.
So how does one deal with a counterpunching type of style?
Well there are a couple of different ways to offset or negate this. One would be typically counterpunchers don’t like constant pressure and that is one way to overcome them. Just keep attacking and scoring goals.
This accomplishes a couple of things 1) it keeps the puck out of your end of the ice and 2) if you get them running around in their own end they will tire out.
This will require the Hawks to get into the series from the start. The one thing they have had trouble with the past couple of playoff years is slow starts in series i.e. Detroit and Los Angeles. One they dug themselves into such a hole they did not get out of.
The Hawks need to take a game in Anaheim or as the captain says maybe two if they can go that they will win this series. It will put all the pressure on Anaheim on their home ice.
Keeping constant pressure on will require maintaining control of the puck which, the Hawks are good at but the Ducks are slightly better at faceoffs. This is the series the Hawks centers need to take control and dictate the dots as much as possible. If they win this battle they will control the pace of the game.
The other way to defeat a counterpuncher is to be counterpunching yourself. In other words let them believe you are throwing everything at them when in actuality you are conserving your best for the end.
Vary the rhythm and pace of games and occasionally throw them junk meaning lob, loft puck into their zone and see how they bounce, it will get them skating. Use odd bounces off the boards in their zone to get them skating and running around. This is key make them skate around, they will get tired. Now the Hawks need to manage this depending on the score of the games.
The Ducks will try to physically wear the Hawks out because of their size so have your heads on swivels and make sure to move the puck out of your own end quickly as this team loves to forecheck and bang you along the boards.
The top two lines may in fact negate each other so the bottom six of Chicago has to be better than Anaheim in all phases of the game. This could be the series that Vermette, Desjardins and Shaw are key in.
All the forwards may also need to backcheck more in this series to help the defense out but positioning is key as this team loves to get big bodies to the slot area and from the point with their work from behind your net.
The Hawks have been giving up a lot of shots against try to get these down with plugging up lanes and blocks this will be interesting to monitor as the games get played out. Also giveaways need to be as non-existent as possible.
The good thing the Hawks already had to exercise patience when they played the Wild. They may need more patience in playing the Ducks and remember just because your up two or three goals it means nothing until the final whistle blows.
Here is to a series that KO’s all hockey fans and GO HAWKS!