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Getting to the Cup: Western Conference Finals preview

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We preview the Western Conference Finals matchup between the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks

The Cup
The Cup
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After another grueling season and two exciting rounds of win or go home hockey in the NHL, four teams have survived to make their respective conference finals. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the west, the Anaheim Ducks take on the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yesterday, we previewed the Eastern Conference Finals. Today we take a look at the matchup in the west. Also, we will have game threads for every game remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

THE TEAMS

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim's offense flows through center Ryan Getzlaf, who scored 25 goals and assisted on 45 others during the regular season, and has two goals and 10 assists in the playoffs. Right wing Corey had 33 goals and 22 assists in the regular season, and has been a force in the playoffs with seven goals and eight assists.

The Ducks got an infusion of leadership this season in the person of Ryan Kesler, for whom they traded with the Vancouver Canucks. According to NHL.com...

"He’s definitely got a big presence in the room," says Ducks winger Matt Beleskey, who has benefited from playing on a line with Kesler and winger Jakob Silfverberg in the playoffs. "He’s not vocal all the time, but when he is, guys are listening. He’s got that experience from what he’s been through – the Stanley Cup Final, all that experience. That shows in the room and on the ice."

Chicago Blackhawks

When team leader Patrick Kane went down with a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss 21 games of the regular season, the chances of the Blackhawks contending for their third Cup in the last several years were thrown seriously into doubt, but center Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa helped fill the void. Toews had 28 goals and 38 assists during the regular season, while Hossa contributed 22 and 39, respectively.

To illustrate just how good Kane is, however,  he still managed 27 goals and 37 assists in 61 games.He also stepped right back into his leadership role when he came back from injury and has led the playoff effort with seven goals and six assists.

How they got here

Series Anaheim Ducks (Reg Season 51-24) Chicago Blackhawks (Reg Season 48-28)
First round

The Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 and seemed to do their best work during the third period and overtime. According to NHL.com, "The Ducks outscored the Jets 10-1 in the third period and overtime, including 5-0 in Games 1-2. It wasn't the game plan, but it fell in line with how the season has gone for the Ducks, who won an NHL single-season record 18 games in the regular season when trailing at any point in the third period and were 12-23-0 when trailing after two periods. Anaheim was the first team in NHL history to win three straight playoff games when trailing at any point in the third period."

Game 1: Won 4-2

Game 2: Won 2-1

Game 3: Won 5-4 (OT)

Game 4: Won 5-2

In determining why Chicago beat Nashvile 4-2, some might argue that the Blackhawks played well when falling behind in a game. Others might say that the Predators tended to choke when playing with a lead. No matter which side you come down on, three of Chicago's victories were of the come from behind variety.

Jonathan Toews led the Blackhawks in the series with three goals and five assists.

Game 1: Won 4-3

Game 2: Lost 6-2

Game 3: Won 4-2

Game 4: Won 3-2

Game 5: Lost 5-2

Game 6: Won 4-3

Conference semifinals

One reason the Ducks throttled the Calgary Flames four games to one is that the Flames couldn't stay out of the penalty box, and Anaheim was able to take advantage on the power play.

According to NHL.com, "A power play that was dormant most of the season has come alive in the playoffs. Anaheim, which ranked 28th in the regular season, went 6-for-18 in the series and is 9-for-29 in the postseason (31 percent). Anaheim scored two power-play goals against Calgary three times in the series after it did so six times in the regular season and none in its last 39 regular-season games."

Game 1: Won 6-1

Game 2: Won 3-0

Game 3: Lost 4-3 (OT)

Game 4: Won 4-2

Game 5: Won 3-2 ((OT)

One of the reasons the Blackhawks swept the Minnesota Wild 4-0 is the resurgence of goalie Corey Crawford. According to NHL.com, "Crawford has made a career out of it. After a save percentage of .809 in his first two games against Nashville, he made 137 saves on 144 shots in his next five games, a .951 save percentage. He allowed seven goals against the Wild for a 1.75 goals-against average and had a 30-save shutout in Game 3 to put the Blackhawks in position to sweep.

Game 1: Won 4-3

Game 2: Won 4-1

Game 3: Won 1-0

Game 4: Won 4-3

Schedule

Game Home Ice When (PST) Network
One Anaheim Noon on Sunday, May 17 NBC
Two Anaheim 6pm on Tuesday, May 19 NBCSN
Three Chicago 5pm on Thursday, May 21 NBCSN
Four Chicago 5pm on Saturday, May 23 NBC
Five Anaheim 6pm on Monday, May 25 NBCSN
Six Chicago 5pm on Wednesday, May 27 NBCSN
Seven Anaheim 5pm on Saturday, May 30 NBCSN