Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville downplayed the effect of the extra day between Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference final, but it could be huge for the Hawks.
There’s little question that the wear-and-tear of this series has had a bigger effect on Chicago. It’s unlikely a coincidence that the Hawks have lost all four games following their multiple-overtime victories — and won the game after that each time. In fact, on “regular rest” — three days or fewer after a game that ended in regulation or the first minute of OT — the Hawks are 10-0 in the playoffs this year.
Game 7 will be Saturday night at the Honda Center. It’s the first time in the series there will be two days between games.
“Both teams have been flying back and forth the last few days. It’s been an amazing pace,” Quenneville said when asked after the Hawks’ 5-2 victory in Game 6 on Wednesday night at the United Center if the extra day matters. “Just like the [Ducks] — they get a breather as well going into Game 7. Should be a couple of great back-to-back Games 7s [including Friday night’s Eastern Conference final between the Rangers and Lightning].”
The extra day probably isn’t the best thing in the world for the Ducks. They’ve been counting on wearing down the Hawks with their physical play and trying to take advantage of high ice-time for the Hawks’ top four defensemen. An extra day mitigates the impact of that.
And it’s also an extra day for questions about their own history in Game 7s. In both 2013 (to the Red Wings) and 2014 (to the Kings), they lost Game 7 at home after leading a series 3-2. That can’t be fun.
The Ducks still have the advantage with Game 7 at home. And the addition of Ryan Kesler makes them a tougher out than they’ve been. But against a team that is always seeking that extra edge, the extra day between games is not good news.
1a. By replacing 40-year-old Kimmo Timonen with 24-year-old David Rundblad, the Hawks dropped the average age nearly a full year (28.1 to 27.3). But that still leaves them older than the Ducks by a full year per man (27.3 to 26.2).
Without Timonen active, the Hawks still have six players 31 and older who played in Game 6 — Marian Hossa (36), Richards (35), Patrick Sharp (33), Johnny Oduya (33), Antoine Vermette (32) and Duncan Keith (31). The Ducks have one — defenseman Francois Beauchemin (34).
2. Statistically — and oddly — Game 7 has been the easiest for the road team to win in the playoffs in the NHL’s salary-cap era (2005-15). Road teams are 22-21 (.512) in Game 7s in that span.
But that success fluctuates. Last year, road teams were 6-1 (the Kings themselves were 3-0, beating the Sharks, Ducks and Blackhawks on the road). This year, road teams are 0-3 in Game 7s, heading into the Eastern Conference final denouement tonight at Madison Square Garden.
3. The Blackhawks are 1-2 in Game 7s under Joel Quenneville — beating the Red Wings at home in 2013 and losing to the Canucks on the road in 2011 and the Kings at home last year.
But forward Brad Richards is 7-0 in Game 7s in his career. He has scored two goals and three assists and is a plus-2 in those games. With the Rangers last year, Richards scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory in Game 7 at Pittsburgh.
That was one of only two goals Richards scored in the final 17 games of the playoffs with the Rangers — one reason why he’s with the Hawks today. Richards has scored one point in five of the six games of the Western Conference final.
For what it’s worth, six of Richards’ seven Game 7 victories have been by the same 2-1 score — including twice with Tampa Bay in 2004, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
4. Hockey players and coaches in general don’t gush about the opposing team or players on the opposing team, but Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau’s dismissive response to a question about Duncan Keith in Game 6 came off as rude, especially for a Canadian.
“I don’t want to talk about Chicago,” said Boudreau, generally an affable guy. “I want to talk about our team. Keith is a good player. What do you want?”
It’s never easy to talk about how great the other team or an opposing player is after a loss in a critical playoff game. But Keith is a two-time Norris Trophy winner who had a phenomenal performance in an elimination game. Is it really that difficult to throw a little respect his way?
5. Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo when asked during the second-round series about how great Joel Quenneville is:
“It’s proven, he’s won two Cups. They do a lot of winning but I’m not really too focused on that right now, I’m focused on our own guys.”
6. Then again, maybe Bruce Boudreau is feeling a little heat. His team lost Game 7 after leading a series 3-2 each of the previous seasons. In fact, Boudreau is 1-5 in Game 7 at home in his career.
Against the Kings last year, the Ducks fell apart from the start in a 6-2 loss in Game 7. They allowed a prime scoring opportunity in the first 13 seconds of the game, fell behind 3-0 in the first period and 5-0 in the second period.
What can he learn from that experience?
“I don’t know yet. We haven’t played Game 7 yet,” Boudreau said after Game 6. “We’ll talk about it. We’ll look over the tapes. Last year’s Game 7, we were just a bunch of Nervous Nellies. Hopefully that happened in Game 6 and won’t carry over to Game 7.”
7. Coaching records in Game 7 at home in the salary-cap era (two or more game):
Alain Vigneault (4-1)
Peter Laviolette (3-0)
John Tortorella (2-0)
Claude Julien (3-4)
Mike Babcock (1-1)
Joel Quenneville (1-1)
Darryl Sutter (1-1)
Todd McLellan (1-1)
Dan Bylsma (0-3)
Bruce Boudreau (1-5)
8. With the Hawks scoring three-goals in 3:45 of the second period in Game 6, NHL teams have scored three unanswered goals in one period 21 times in this year’s playoffs. Only four times has the victimized team won the game — three of them by the Hawks: Game 1 vs. Nashville; Game 1 vs. Minnesota; and Game 4 vs. Anaheim.
9. The last time Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler met in a Game 7 was in 2011, when the Canucks beat the Hawks 2-1 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver after the Hawks had rallied from a 3-0 series deficit.
Kesler assisted on Alex Burrows’ goal 2:43 into the game that gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead. It held up until Toews scored a short-handed goal with 1:56 left in regulation. The Hawks lost when Burrows scored off a turnover in overtime.
10. Bits and pieces: The Hawks are 14-4 with a chance to clinch a series under Joel Quenneville. … Patrick Sharp has scored at least one goal in 19 consecutive playoff series, dating to his rookie year with the Flyers. Sharp has not scored in the conference final. … Besides his three assists in Game 6, Duncan Keith was a plus-3 and leads the NHL in plus-minus in the playoffs (plus-11 in 16 games). … Niklas Hjalmarsson was a plus-4 in Game 6. The Blues’ Jay Bouwmeester is the only other defenseman with a plus-4 or better differential in this year’s playoffs. … The Hawks are now 15-0 in the playoffs when Marian Hossa scores a goal. . They’re also 9-0 when Andrew Shaw scores and 6-0 when Marcus Kruger scores. … The Hawks are 16-2 when Bryan Bickell scores in the playoffs, but he has not scored a goal in this year’s postseason.