Ducks FYI: Power-play disparity favors Blackhawks; Ducks avoid topic
Sunday’s viral hockey video was of the two-handed swat to the chest that Chicago goalie Corey Crawford delivered to Ducks forward Matt Beleskey late in regulation of the Blackhawks’ double-overtime victory Saturday night.
The fact that no penalty was called on Crawford for the chop was eyebrow raising, as was the fact that during Games 3 and 4 of the NHL Western Conference finals in United Center, the Ducks were at least a man short nine times and the Blackhawks played short-handed three times.
A power-play goal by Chicago forward Patrick Kane 12 minutes 39 seconds into the third period tied the score, 4-4, and helped the Blackhawks even the series at two games apiece, setting up a pivotal Game 5 on Monday night at 6 at Honda Center.
Ducks centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler were asked about the disparity Sunday after returning to Anaheim, and Kesler backed away from the microphone to avoid irritating the league.
Getzlaf admitted it’s difficult to balance frustration with referees’ calls on the ice “and doing what’s right in the game and by the team. I’ve made it a point these playoffs to not say anything, to stay away from referees, and I’m trying my best.
“We’ve just got to go out and play, do our thing. It’s a matter of bearing down and winning special teams — when you have those [penalty] kills, you’ve got to get them and when you have the power-play opportunities, you’ve got to take advantage.”
In the series, the Ducks have been on the penalty kill 17 times compared to nine for Chicago.
Overall in the postseason, Anaheim’s negative-10 difference between its 48 penalties and 38 power-play opportunities is the most one-sided among the 16 playoff entrants.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau offered only two words when asked about the referees. He said “yes,” he was aware of the situation, and “no” about any interest in elaborating on it.
One of the primary ways the Ducks have sought to compensate for the Blackhawks’ advantage in big-game experience is to pound them.
Through four games, the Ducks have outhit Chicago, 220-160, led by Beleskey’s 25 hits.
And the hitting has been specific. Through the first three games, the website waronice.com reported Anaheim had directed 47.5% of its hits at the Blackhawks’ top four defenseman, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook.
Hjalmarsson has answered with only two hits, and the others have been outhit as the Ducks seek to fatigue a unit that’s top-heavy with talent.
Chicago forward Bryan Bickell told reporters in Chicago on Sunday that the hitting cuts both ways: “They are wearing us down, but they’re getting tired from wearing us down, so . . .”
Kesler answered, “We’re going to keep with our game plan. I think that’ll wear them down. Their top [defensive] four are playing huge minutes and that’s going to wear them down.
“No human can withstand that many hits.”
Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner has delivered some of his team’s most jarring blows, and admits he casts his eyes on where to deliver his punishment.
“It obviously depends on who it is, the situation. You don’t want to go running around,” Stoner said. “If the opportunity’s there, you’re putting everything that you have into it.
“Obviously, certain guys you’d like to give it to a little bit more . . . you might be trying to target other guys a little bit more.”
In the last two games, Ducks right wing Corey Perry has been positioned in front of Crawford on three of the Ducks’ six goals.
Perry, second in the NHL with nine postseason goals, caught Crawford’s attention just before Getzlaf whisked a pass to the goalie’s left to set up Simon Despres’ winning goal in Game 3 on Thursday.
On Saturday, Perry watched Getzlaf fire a low shot that bounced off Crawford’s left leg pad, and he was there for the rebound to score the third of the Ducks’ three goals in a 37-second third-period span.
“Try to get in his eyes,” Perry said when asked how he intended to affect Crawford. “It’s about getting in, and taking away, his vision — not letting him see the puck. If he can’t see it, he’s not going to stop it.”
The Blackhawks are 4-0 in overtime games this postseason, and first-line center Jonathan Toews says the ability to produce at the most stressful times is a good sign as the series moves toward conclusion.
“We’re a really confident group. We’ve got to understand we’ve got to be smart, patient, to keep working for that one lucky bounce,” Toews said. “It’s just a feeling we’re eventually going to find that break.”
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire
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