ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Kyle Palmieri hadn’t scored a goal in the Anaheim Ducks’ entire playoff run until he beat Corey Crawford in the Western Conference finals opener, sliding on his back in celebration of what turned out to be the game-winner.
With Palmieri and several lesser-known Ducks stepping up splendidly in the postseason, the Chicago Blackhawks realize they’ve got to match that depth.
The Ducks have had two of the world’s top scorers atop their roster for several years, but Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry never had the supporting cast necessary to truly contend for another Stanley Cup title until now.
In fact, complementary players from both teams had a major role in Game 1 — and for Chicago, that wasn’t a good thing.
The Ducks host the Blackhawks in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“We know, and the Blackhawks know, that you have to get scoring from everywhere in your lineup to win at this level,” Getzlaf said Monday after practice at Honda Center. “We’ve got a bunch of it this year, and the guys came through in Game 1 when our line wasn’t very good. We’ve got players we trust all through this lineup.”
After just 60 minutes, depth already is a glaring factor in this conference final between two NHL powers with few obvious weaknesses.
Chicago’s perennial success over the past seven seasons was built on its remarkable top-end talent, but also on an enviable depth that has been a bit shallow this spring.
The Ducks have 11 players with at least six postseason points, while the Blackhawks have only five.
“We’ve had some of our top guys playing really well, (but) I think there’s still some guys who feel like their offense is yet to come,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “Doesn’t matter who it is. We’ll keep pushing, we’ll find ways, and we’re confident.”
The Ducks’ depth was obvious on the scoresheet when their vaunted top line contributed just one assist in a 4-1 victory Sunday. Anaheim is rolling four strong lines with goal-scoring potential, along with six defenseman equitably sharing minutes.
“Every series now, a different guy has stepped up,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Whether it’s Kyle going to do it for the rest of the series, or the third line or the fourth line, it’s too early to tell. To be successful, it’s usually somebody different, some line different or some defense pairing different that makes you successful series to series, and it’s usually not the same guys.”
Palmieri hadn’t scored a goal since late March, but kept his lineup spot with hard work and faith from Boudreau. Jakob Silfverberg also went through several lengthy goal droughts during the regular season, but has exploded for 13 points in the postseason, tied for the second-most in the league behind Perry.
The Blackhawks also realize their apparent lack of depth on defense has been underlined.
With Michal Rozsival sidelined by an ankle injury, Chicago relied on Duncan Keith (28:25), Brent Seabrook (26:57) and Johnny Oduya (22:29) to play substantial minutes in the opener — and even then, their supporting cast struggled.
David Rundblad played under 11 minutes, but was on the ice for Anaheim’s first two goals. Late-season acquisition Kimmo Timonen did even less, playing 5:15 and getting just two shifts in the third period while struggling to get in the flow.
When the Blackhawks essentially play only four defensemen, the Ducks see an opportunity to wear them down with the type of heavy-hitting forecheck in which they specialize. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville shrugged off that potential pitfall.
“We know they’re a physical team,” he said. “That’s part of it. We want to make sure we don’t get distracted where we’ve got to go to be successful.”
Chicago likely could have added a more prominent defenseman than Timonen at the trade deadline, but didn’t. Instead, the Blackhawks are likely to turn to journeyman Kyle Cumiskey on the blue line in Game 2.
Cumiskey got his first NHL action in four years when he played seven games for the Blackhawks in February, but spent most of the season in the AHL. He also spent two seasons under contract to the Ducks from 2011-13, but never cracked their lineup.
“It’s tough being without (Rozsival),” Cumiskey said. “I’ve just tried to get in the rhythm in practice. It’s been a long stretch since I’ve played, but it’s a huge game to be thrown into. I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous, but excited at the same time.”
NOTES: Anaheim C Ryan Kesler missed practice to rest, Boudreau said. … The Blackhawks hadn’t lost since April 23, but they’ve been through too many tough postseason situations to worry about their first series deficit of the spring. “We knew it was going to be a different game because both teams had so many days off,” Chicago’s Andrew Shaw said. “I know we’ll bounce back fine.” … Quenneville acknowledged that prospect Stephen Johns might have been a candidate to play, but the 23-year-old defenseman broke his arm in the AHL playoffs last weekend. … Rundblad stood up admirably to media scrutiny after his disappointing playoff debut: “I’ve just got to try to play as quickly and as hard as possible, and yesterday I didn’t feel like I did that enough.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.