The Anaheim Mighty Ducks Reach The Western Conference Finals
The NHL’s Western Conference Finals are set. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks beat Calgary in five games, closing out the series on Sunday night to advance and face the Chicago Blackhawks. Here’s a look back on how the Ducks did it…
I don’t know that this series necessarily had a “key”, unless you want to say Anaheim having much better hockey players than Calgary is a key. But that sounds like those Keys To The Game that Tim McCarver used to inflict on baseball audiences before he retired. We can say though, that Anaheim’s aggressiveness ensured that their talent would prevail.
The Ducks made tone-setting a priority in the first two games in their building. Matt Beleskey, whose five goals in this series led all scorers, scored right out of the gate in Game 1. Corey Perry, the best player in the ice, also scored twice and had two assists in a 6-1 rout.
What’s more impressive is that Anaheim didn’t take its foot off the gas in Game 2. They came out on the attack and put 20 shots on net in the first period alone. Only one of them got through, again by Beleskey, but they had Calgary on their heels and it led to a 3-0 win.
Goaltender Frederik Andersen had a tough outing in the third game back in Anaheim, the one the Ducks lost. Even here though, you could see the consistency of effort coming through. Calgary, in a game they knew they had to have, could muster only 20 shots. Andersen’s rough night led to a 4-3 overtime loss, but Anaheim was still controlling the pace.
The most nervous moment probably came in the early part of Game 4, when the Flames took advantage of their new life, came out blazing (no pun intended) and took 11 shots in the first period en route to a 2-1 lead. This time, Anaheim’s key players came through at the back end of a game. Beleskey got a power play goal early in the third for a 3-2 lead and the Ducks closed out the win.
One more time, it would have been easy for Anaheim to take a breather, but they kept charging forward. Perry didn’t hold back in Game 5, launching eight shots on his own and the team took 40 shots in regulation. Somehow, they only scored twice, and it went to overtime, but the determined Ducks kept at it. In the first 2:26 of OT, they attacked with seven more shots, the last a tip-in by Perry that clinched the series.
The schedule for the Anaheim-Chicago conference final will be announced once the matchup in the East is set. Those two series will both come to a conclusion over the next 2-3 nights. Here’s how the schedule looks…
Tuesday: Montreal-Tampa Bay (7:30 PM ET, NBCSN): It’s Game 6 and Tampa can clinch, but the Lightning are feeling the pressure, having already missed two close-out chances. Canadiens fans, already the most pompous in North America, will become unbearable if they pull this one off and turn it into the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1993.
Wednesday: Washington-NY Rangers (7:30 PM ET, NBCSN): Speaking of feeling pressure, the Capitals lost two close-out chances in Games 5 & 6, the first one when the Rangers got the tying goal with 1:41 left in regulation.
This has been a fabulous series and one eminently worthy of this Game 7 in Madison Square Garden. The Caps’ history in these games is a nightmare, and in 2012-13, the nightmare came at the hands of these New York Rangers. I can’t wait to watch and see if Washington finally can take care of its demons.
On Thursday, Tampa and Montreal will play a Game 7 if necessary. Game time and network has yet to be announced, but NBC Sports Network has carried the overwhelming majority of playoff games to date.