The war of attrition in the Western Conference Final has been a battle of two different types of strengths: Anaheim’s depth versus Chicago’s skill and survivalist instinct.
The Blackhawks are so good in big moments and important games. It’s when they’re at their best. They proved this yet again in Game 6, riding an early 3-0 advantage to vanquish the Ducks 5-2 at United Center and send the series to Game 7 Saturday in Anaheim.
Duncan Keith led the charge for the Hawks, controlling the pace of the game, and notching three assists in 28:35 virtuoso minutes and seconds.
"You can definitely count on him stepping up and being one of our best players, if not our best player," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "He's all over the rink. Seems like he never runs out of energy. Pretty amazing game tonight."
It was the Keith show for Chicago in the second period of the game where he notched three assists, two of which were primaries.
At the 12:08 mark, Keith dished the puck to forward Patrick Kane in the Anaheim zone to put the game at 3-0 in favor of the Blackhawks.
It was a nice little move by Kane to finish the play and a poor play by Matt Beleskey defending Kane.
Keith found Marian Hossa at the side of the Anaheim net to put the game at 2-0 at the 10:41 mark of the second period. How many shot-fakes did Keith make? Fooled everyone in United Center with that one.
At the 8:23 mark of the second period, Chicago’s Brandon Saad was led down the middle of the ice perfectly by Keith, and nudged at bit by Kane. Saad went five-hole on Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen to put the game at 1-0 in favor of Chicago.
The first period was a tense affair with few scoring chances. Both teams seemed to be feeling one another out in the mega-important contest. There were scoring chances, but none were truly memorable.
Anaheim scored late in the second period -- a goal by Patrick Maroon, and Clayton Stoner early in the third to put the game at 3-2. But that's the closest the Ducks would come.
There was one key move in this game. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville kept Kane and Toews together on a line -- where they finished Game 5. Anaheim had no answer for their line, which spent the majority of the evening matched up against Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Both Ducks stars finished minus-3.
"They're very high-skilled players. They got great pace. They're very competitive. They're great leaders," Quenneville said. "The last game in the third period, they played some shifts there. They had some great looks together. That got us thinking about it."
Also, the Ducks preached they had learned a lesson from losing Game 6 to the Los Angeles Kings a year ago with a chance to clinch. The Hawks showed their experience in scoring first and putting the Ducks away.
Anaheim lost Game 7 at home against LA a year ago.
"I think last year's Game 7, we were just a bunch of Nervous Nellis," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Hopefully that happened in Game 6 and won't carry over to Game 7."
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