The Blackhawks will face the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference final after the Ducks advanced with a 3-2 overtime victory over Calgary on Sunday night at Honda Center to win their second-round series, 4-1.
The start of the series has not been determined, but the Ducks (51-24-7, 109 points) will have home-ice advantage. The conference finals will not begin until the entire second round is completed. It won’t end at least until Wednesday, when the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals play Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
Corey Perry’s goal from a mad scramble in front of the Calgary net 2:26 into overtime clinched the series for the Ducks. The Flames led 2-1 to start the third period, but Matt Beleskey’s power-play goal 59 seconds into the third period tied the game.
With their ample size, skill and depth, the Ducks figure to be a more difficult matchup for the Hawks than their previous opponents in the playoffs, the Predators and Wild. The Ducks have one of the hottest lines in the playoffs with 6-4, 211-pound center Ryan Getzlaf (two goals, 12 points, plus-6) flanked by the 6-3, 210-pound Perry (seven goals, 15 points, plus-7) and 6-3, 229-pound Patrick Maroon (four goals, seven points, plus-5).
“They’ve got a lot of big bodies, similar to [the Kings] last year,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “So we could probably expect a little more physicality. Every series you see that raised level of play and that’s probably what we’re going to see and can expect for the next one.”
But depth has been a Ducks strength in the playoffs — particularly the No. 2 line of Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey. The Ducks’ defensemen combined for 26 points in the first two rounds, led by Sami Vatanen (two goals, seven points, plus-5), Hampus Lindholm (one goal, six points, plus-1), Francois Beauchemin (six assists, plus-3) and Simon Despres (five assists, plus-5).
The challenge for the Ducks could be in goal. Frederik Andersen (8-1, 1.96 goals-against average, .925 save percentage) has been solid against the Jets and Flames, but has not faced a team with the Hawks’ playoff cachet.
The Hawks were 2-1-0 against the Ducks in the regular season. They lost 1-0 with Scott Darling and the Ducks’ John Gibson in goal at the United Center on Oct. 28 — the ninth game of the season. Devante Smith-Pelly, who scored the game-winning goal, was traded to the Canadiens in February.
The Hawks won both games at Honda Center — 4-1 on Nov. 28 and 4-1 on Jan. 30, with Corey Crawford and Andersen in goal and Patrick Kane scoring two goals in each game. Crawford stopped a combined 44 of 46 shots in the two victories. Kane scored four goals and five points and was a plus-7 against the Ducks this season.
On paper, the Hawks have a big edge in playoff experience and postseason success. Since 2009, the Hawks have won 14 playoff series. The Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007 —only Getzlaf, Perry and Beauchemin remain —but since 2009 the Ducks have won four playoff series in seven postseasons.