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Frederik Andersen did everything he could to give Monday night's game to the Hawks. The Ducks goalie let Teuvo Teravainen's harmless little shot from the high slot slip under his arm for one goal. He dropped his stick on one side of the net and then failed to get over to other side well enough to stop Brent Seabrook's tough angle chance for the second. And if we thought that was a tough angle . . . there was the Hawks' final goal of the evening, which Jonathan Toews actually shot from an inch behind the goal line but managed to bank it into the net off Andersen's skate with 37 seconds remaining to complete a remarkable last two-minute, two-goal comeback.
Andersen was clearly feeling it - the pressure that is - and he was on the verge of giving the game to a Blackhawks team had no business winning it.
If Andersen gets generous again, the Hawks will have a chance to bounce back. If not, it is clearly safe to proclaim that if the Ducks play their best and the Hawks play their best in either of the final two games (the second one is if necessary, of course), the Ducks will win.
If the home team had lost this game, the blame game would have been short and bitter. On the other side of the ice, some would have you believe the Hawks' blame game is just about as simple. Don't believe it.
The Ducks prevailed 5-4 in overtime and took a 3-2 series lead thanks in part to a bad play by the Hawks' designated goat.
I say "in part" because while Bryan Bickell's failure to get a dump-in deep clearly wasn't a good play, it wasn't a screw-up of nearly the magnitude of any of Andersen's.
Bickell's gaffe certainly wasn't deserving of Mike Milbury's bitter post-game analysis:
"This is on Bryan Bickell, who hasn't had a good playoffs. He slams it into the legs of the Ducks' defender, what are you doing? No excuses, take all the responsibility, Bryan Bickell, it was all your fault."
The simple truth that Milbury misses: The Ducks were the better team in this game and the Ducks have been the better team in this series.
One great thing about the Hawks' comeback: it put the lie to the idea that the Ducks' supposed ultra-aggressive play was taking a massive toll on the Hawks. If that was the case, how was it that the Hawks had the energy to score not once but twice at the very end of regulation?
The Hawks emphasize speed and skill to generate offense and fans may have heard once or twice that that has worked well enough to send the team to the Western Conference finals five times in seven years.
On Monday, the Ducks played well enough to win handily in regulation thanks not to an edge in the "hits" department but thanks to overall better play. Anaheim generated many more quality scoring chances than the Hawks when the game was in the balance early and their determined defenders didn't even let the Blackhawks get a shot on goal until shortly before the first intermission. Sure, the Ducks played more conservatively in the second period, but with decent goalie play, that would have worked just fine.
Another goalie meltdown is always possible. But that isn't just cold comfort, it is icy.
See also: Andersen Escapes Rough Outing With Win.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays, except when he appears on Tuesday. He welcomes your comments.
1. From Marty Gangler:
You have to simplify your hockey in OT - there is no time to make up for a bad play. Bickell made a horrendous play that led to the game-winning goal. How can it not be his fault? It had nothing to do with who was better in the game leading up to that point - the game comes down to one play in OT. And it did. And Bickell blew it. The game wasn't lost in the first three periods - the game was lost right there in OT.
Just like you don't let a slapper rip from the point on the PP when you don't have a lane - it can hit a shin pad and be behind you in a split second. Everyone was going to the bench for a change when Bickell completely screwed up - and then everyone was out of position. Simple. Bickell's fault.
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