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Monday Musings: Ducks and Oilers matchups

Now there are eight. The second-round matchups of the NHL playoffs have been announced, and the Oilers and Ducks begin on Wednesday in Anaheim at 8:30 MT.

The good news for younger Oilers fans is that game three will start at 5 p.m. MT on Sunday, and game six, if necessary, could also be an early start.

I expect this series to be much nastier than the Oilers/Sharks. The Ducks are a more aggressive team than San Jose, and the Oilers have the size and physicality to match their nastiness.

It should be a fantastic series.

The Ducks will provide different challenges than the Sharks did in round one.

Anaheim has more scoring threats.

When Peter Deboer loaded up his top line with Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, he had no other scoring threats with Logan Couture playing with a mangled jaw. Todd McLellan was happy to match the Milan Lucic/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-/Jordan Eberle trio against them, and RNH’s line shut them down. Even though the Oilers second line didn’t score an EV goal in the series, they created a lot of chances and did a good job of keeping the Sharks top line out of the offensive zone.

Anaheim is a different story. Ryan Getzlaf is more dominant than any Sharks forwards, and his wingers, Rickard Rakell and Patric Eaves, each had 30 goals this season. The second line of Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg is solid two-way line that can finish, while Corey Perry is on the third line. Nate Thompson was Anaheim’s version of Zack Kassian in the first round, when he scored twice and added two assists.

The Ducks have a very good defence, and it will get better with the return of Cam Fowler. Fowler was injured on April 4th. He was scheduled to be out 2-6 weeks. He didn’t play in the first round against the Flames, but he practiced yesterday and has declared himself ready for Wednesday.

As good as the Ducks defence is, they don’t have a pair as sound defensively as Marc-Edourd Vlasic and Justin Braun. Connor McDavid won’t have to face them every game, and while Vlasic and Braun were very good, they were on the ice for three goals against in the final two games. They were on for Patrick Maroon’s opening goal in game five, assisted by McDavid, and for David Desharnais’ OT winner, assisted by Draisaitl, after McDavid changed in the offensive zone, and for Draisaitl’s opening goal in game six.

I’ve read a lot of misguided concern, in my opinion, over Todd McLellan’s decision to not try harder to get McDavid away from Vlasic/Braun. The reality is late in the series, the Oilers won that matchup, along with the one he really wanted, RNH’s line versus Pavelski’s line. McLellan felt confident his top line would produce and they did in the two most crucial games of the series.

Once Draisaitl was over the flu/cold he had three EV points in the final two games, and he and McDavid found ways to produce even against a solid D pair. I would expect the same in this series.

Hampus Lindholm will face McDavid’s line the most. Lindholm skated on his own yesterday according to Ducks beat reporter Eric Stephens. Lindholm told Stephens he plans to skate today, but was unsure if he’d practice with the team or skate on his own. I’m sure he will play, but he might be a bit banged up.

In five regular season games, Lindholm was on the ice against McDavid for 40 EV minutes, which was much lower than Vlasic (59:47) and Braun (54:35). Lindholm is very good, but he’s not yet at Vlasic’s level defensively. Lindholm played 1124:12 EV TOI in the regular season and Josh Manson (716:36) was his most consistent partner. They are a good pair, but they don’t have the experience or cohesiveness of Vlasic/Braun.

The matchup Randy Carlyle will really want is Kesler’s line against McDavid. During the regular season Kesler played the most minutes, 50:01, of any NHL forward against McDavid, while Cogliano was second at 45:08. That is the matchup the Ducks want. It is very different having a forward line try to contain McDavid and Draisaitl compared to a defence pairing.

“When you go up against a top line, your main focus is to keep them out of the offensive zone,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “You want to force them to play defence, and limit their speed through the neutral zone. Puck possession is crucial,” he continued.

Kesler is very good at both ends. He likes to agitate and I’m sure he’ll be hacking, whacking and face-washing McDavid and Draisaitl as much as he can. But Cogliano and Silfverberg are also very important. Both are excellent skaters and in order for this trio to slow down the Oilers top line, they will need to force them to play defence as much as possible.

The reality is McDavid’s line will get their points. They won’t be shut out, and with Draisaitl healthy again it will be even harder to slow them down. Faceoffs will be huge, and if Draisaitl can win close to 50%, then that line won’t have to waste precious seconds of every shift trying to get the puck back. Changing on the fly should benefit McDavid’s line, because no forward in the league can keep up with him and if he comes when the Oilers have possession, it puts Kesler and his line on their heels right away.

Matchups are important, but I also believe we can overvalue them. Often it comes down to one or two decisions and battles that will lead to a goal, and while some coaches try harder to get a specific matchup, whoever is on the ice against the Ducks and Oilers top lines, needs to make smart decisions or they’ll pay the price.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers had four lines, each with four players rolling through them. Patrick Maroon and Drake Caggiula were with McDavid/Draisaitl. Mclellan didn’t want to commit to any line combos at this point, but it would seem we could see those two swap spots on the first and third line at various points of this series. Caggiula and Maroon offer very different styles. Maroon brings size and skill in close, while Caggiula has speed and is more of an outside shooting threat. Even though the Oilers won games five and six with Caggiula on that line, I suspect Maroon starts there because the Ducks are a more physical team and McLellan will want size on each line.
  • “I hope it goes better against Gibson,” smiled RNH when I asked him the difference between Martin Jones and John Gibson. “I had a lot of chances last series, which is good, but I have to bury some. I’ve had more success versus Anaheim in my career, so hopefully that continues.” said RNH. His line did an admirable job preventing the Sharks top line from scoring, but they need to produce. RNH played the second most minutes of any Oilers forward in the San Jose series, but he didn’t pick up a point. He played well defensively and in the neutral zone, and he created numerous chances, but he needs to find a way to score. He led the Oilers with 17 shots, which is great, and the odds suggest he is due to breakout. He has to, and the Oilers need him to, because I’m not sure they can expect their third and fourth lines to score all four game-winning goals in round two.
  • RNH scored twice versus the Ducks this season and he has six goals and 14 points in 20 career games. He likes playing the Ducks, and it is amazing how certain players have more success against one good team compared to another. Jones had RNH’s number in round one, and he is hopeful a new opponent allows him to notch his first career playoff goal.
  • The Sharks confirmed today Joe Thornton was playing with a torn ACL and MCL. That is incredible considering how he played. To endure that kind of discomfort is remarkable.
  • The Oilers need to play disciplined like they did in games three, five and six. The Sharks only had six powerplays in those three games, but they had 20 combined in games one, two and four. “I know how they play. They love to get you off your game with little slashes in the legs after whistles and other things. We have to play smart and poised like we did in game five and six,” said Patrick Maroon this morning.
  • The Oilers’ PP needs to be sharp as well. Calgary scored six goals on 16 chances (37.5%) in round one. The Ducks were shorthanded the most in the regular season, 281 kills, but their PK was 4th best at 84.7%. They will take penalties, and the Oilers need to exploit them like Calgary did. The Flames problem was they couldn’t score 5×5. They only had two 5×5 goals in four games. Special teams are important, of course, but usually you need consistent 5×5 play to win. I suspect we will see more goals in this series than we did in the Oilers first round matchup.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Spydyr

    The first cheap shot Kesler gives McDavid, it is a mater of when not if, someone on the ice should skate over and beat the crap out of Kesler . Right there and then.

      • Seriously Bored

        Spidey pants at the beginning of the season. “Eberle is horrible in his own end he wont take a hit to make a play, is always a huge minus and will easily be exposed in the playoffs. Who cares if he gets points.”

        Spider after round 1. “Yeah who cares if he was on a line that helped shut down the other teams top line. Its not like he was the center and he only got one assist. Who cares if he is good defensively he doesnt score.”

          • Seriously Bored

            No i had hopes eberle would produce in the playoffs but i didnt run around saying wait for the playoffs on a guy who was having a really down season. I can cheer for a guy and still be realistic. I know you were one of the people saying he could never learn to play defense and would be a total liability in the playoffs.

          • Shameless Plugger

            NOBODY lit it up in the first round. So why would you expect Eberle to ? All the crap you spewed about him all season is all the stuff he’s doing really well right now. To bad your hatred is blinding your eyes. The kid is playing tough, winning board battles, making hits and taking hits to make plays. All the stuff you said he wasn’t capable of.

    • Jason Gregor

      He played well, but even he admitted he needs to finish. His words not mine. And fact is the second line has to produce more. To go deeper in the playoffs everyone needs to do a bit more and for that line the one obvious shortcoming was a lack of actual production.

      • Spydyr

        If the second line can shut down the other teams first line perhaps even outscore them. Then the Oiler should have a very good chance of winning. Eberle has picked up his game defensively but he is still not near as good as Nuge without the puck.

          • paul wodehouse

            i’m not a gawd squad guy but what’s up with voicing opinion here …jus so you can use the Lords name? If this one soft player needs to go you’ll have to get over it without you-know-who…could they have got Larsson for the laziest ‘muffin’ soft player on the team ? He’s so glarinly bad he’s GOING to have to be packaged with 93 to get back much a needed 60point BANGING right winger to play on the second line and not someone who’s just skating up and down checking…too much money too soon for 14, 4, 93 …plain and simple …they held back on the Russian for good reason … he sucked more than the aforementioned …this line needs to score at least a combined total of a dozen or more points in a Ducks defeat … biggest problem …? … Ducks are tougher on the softies so… 27 55 and 44 COULD be the second line and score points and this pseudo second line could continue to be a checking line plugging in 36 to round out a real shut down group … pray taylor pray

    • 2centz

      I think after that series,it will be Eberle that goes before RNH. I would love to see Ryan’s game when he reaches age 27ish after McLellan has helped shape and mould it. I think he will be a huge asset moving forward. Not saying Eberle didn’t play well either,that line worked as a unit,and was successful together. I just feel McLellan is a top 5 or 6 coach in the NHL and has the ability to take Nuges game to Patrice Bergerons level,if Ryan commits to being a better face off man that is. If I were Nuge,I would try employing Adam Oates services this off season,and see if that helps him on the dot. I think we forget how young Nuge still is,because he was tossed to the wolves at such a young age.

    • paul wodehouse

      yup cuz that’s what Katz pays 93 &14 12million…that much money for checkers … every time some on air guy would pump those two tires for being much better defensive players for the one point between the two of them … yikes… things better get reversed soon do something score some points…that was their playoff experience and these softies should pull the plug… there should be no excuses but so many have some lame one that gets these ‘superstars’ off the hook …imagine trying to win a Stanley Cup with guys who don’t do their jobs…s’like bein’ the receiver in football and not being able to catch the ball…those usually end up in the HOF a sa DBack…golden opportunities for high priced help should be cash in the bank…you TWO are NOT depth players … back of the Net NOW!!!!

  • VK63

    In a long series the stress of dealing with McDavids tool kit must be exhausting. The relentless pressure of that speed is a real McDavid effect. (the book by that name sucks btw… a cash grab at best)

  • Big Jacks Meat

    Gregor / Nation

    Is Hendricks that big of a risk to put in for a game ? I doubt he really hurts us,, the guy deserves it. I am all for the Team as I am sure Hendo is but he is on his last legs and has been a warrior , I feel for him , too soft maybe.

    Hendricks rocks. Hang tough buddy , we will need you yet.

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      Who would you take out for Hendricks right now? Slepy? Obviously can’t do that now after he performed in Game 6.
      I like Matt Hendricks too, but there are better options at this point. Maybe we see him again if some injuries hurt. I’m sure he’s still a presence in the locker room and off the ice.

  • Consultant

    Nuge has always had great defensive instincts as a centre. Now he is finally getting the required strength to go with it. Maybe in a couple years he will get Selke consideration. He is turning into one of our best PK’ers too. For me he’s untouchable. That line did great against a loaded up SJ first line and Eberle and Lucic were very much a part of that. I don’t care if they don’t get any points, shut down Getzlaf and we win this series.

  • Consultant

    I’ll add that having the skill that Ebs, Nuge and Lucic have allows them to be an offensive threat and to log the puck into the offensive zone compared to a typical third line defensive match-up where its just dumping the puck and defending. Their strong possession time takes away a lot of potential offence from the other team’s top line.

  • Oiler Al

    You are not going to beat the Ducks in the alley type game. Kill them with your speed, and would be nice if for once we play a forecheck game and drive their defense into the boards all night long.Lucic time to shine big guy!!

  • geoilersgist

    I think it is a testament to McDavid that McLellan doesn’t try to hard to match him at all. The kid will only get better by having to learn at some point. May as well be now, he is still producing and will continue to do it. This should be one heck of a series. Here’s hoping the good guys continue to play well and roll through this in 6 or 7 games

  • West

    On Joe Thornton supposedly torn knee ligaments, this is either flat out b.s., or someone was taking a boatload of painkillers. Slight tears might allow one to play but it was reported as torn which means ripped in half to me. With 2 torn ligaments in one knee, it seems unlikely any sane doctor would allow someone to play hockey.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Would he even be able to skate for the full 60 with that much damage?

      No doubt that Thornton was injured and playing through pain. The guy is a beast and has been for most of his career. But this sounds like an exaggeration and an excuse to me…

    • The older I get, the better I was...

      Have to agree. I tore a left MCL and it was brutal – no control over the leg, could feel bone grinding on bone. If truly a tear then I don’t see how he could play. Stretched an ACL on the other leg in a knee on knee and it was agony. Pros are a different breed for sure but I can’t imagine the amount of pain killlers needed to perform if both ACL/MCL were torn in the same knee.

  • nuge2drai

    Be interesting to see if Nuge can shut down Getzlaf.

    If so, we need to stop talking about his contract and just thank the lord the center depth we have.

    I expect Lucic to have a big series.

  • Todd Whitney

    “Matchups are important, but I also believe we can overvalue them”

    The last half of your last article was about matchups.

    “If Edmonton can win some more faceoffs, or at least not allow the Sharks to control the puck so easily, then McDavid won’t have to face Vlasic as much.” Actually Todd wanted that match up

  • D'oh-ilers

    If it’s a full ACL tear, it’ll require surgery and the recovery time is at least 12 months. Not sure if that’s something a player in his late 30s can come back from. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it seems and we haven’t seen the end of Jumbo Joe in the NHL.

  • madjam

    Unlike Gregor , I prefer the offense of Sharks over the Ducks . They were close just like the Oilers . Getzlaf had 7 points against against us in 5 games , but no other Duck had over 4 points . Eaves , Rakell and Kesler had but 2 goals against in 5 games . This series is up for grabs , and a win in Anaheim ( a very good home team ) in first two games should fair well for Oilers . I originally thought Anaheim would represent the West and the Cup this year , but Oilers have the tools to beat them . The longer the series goes the less chance Anaheim can match the Oiler speed game . As a note . Connor and Leon faired very well in regular season play against the Ducks and both put up Getzlaf and better type numbers offensively . Oilers won 3 of 5 games . and if Oilers break their (Ducks)winning streak early in first two games , advantage Oilers .

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    The Ducks singular advantage in the series is that they typically play closer to the “throw the rule book away, let the boys play” style of the play-offs–they had the highest number of penalty minutes in the regular season, Calgary had the 2nd most PIMs.

    In short, they’re cheap and they cheat a lot. From Bieksa and Kesler to Perry and Manson. If the refs don’t call the really clear cheap shots then the Oilers are going to have to work through the frustration with their heavy game from Looch, Kass, Maroon, Nurse and Larsson. Pouliot will have to play bigger as well as Benning, Drai and Caggiula. Combine that with team speed and good puck movement and you’ve got a six game win for the Oil.
    At the same time, if the calls don’t come, I’d be for a Gyba game where all he does is hit the snot out of anybody who comes in his corner, particularly if he’s given a long leash on Kesler.

  • slats-west

    The best way to get Kessler off his game is to score when he’s in the ice. What happens is he self destructs and starts blaming his own teammates. See Canucks vs Blackhawks.

    I agree with Gregor Ducks do not have a #1 shutdown d-pairing like Sharks which means MCD and Co should have a field day. And bring on Fowler and that gimped out leg – we will beat home to the outside all day.

    Finally I think Talbot will out duel Gibson. The latter was hardly tested in Calgary series 5on5 and I think Talbot has shown he will make the big save at critical parts of the game.

    Oilers in 5 if MCD and PP rolls big time. 7 Games if he is kept in check.

  • slats-west

    The best way to get Kessler off his game is to score when he’s in the ice. What happens is he tends to self destruct and starts blaming his own teammates. See Canucks vs Blackhawks.

    I agree with Gregor Ducks do not have a #1 shutdown d-pairing like Sharks which means MCD and Co should have a field day. And bring on Fowler and that gimped out leg – we will beat him to the outside all day.

    Finally I think Talbot will out duel Gibson. The latter was hardly tested in Calgary series 5on5 and I think Talbot has shown he will make the big save at critical parts of the game.

    Oilers in 5 if MCD and PP rolls big time. 7 Games if he is kept in check.

  • Oilersrule99

    Silver Berg,kessler,cogs is a great skating checking line.The third line of Rakel,Thompson and Perry can score goals.Hopkins will need to play tough against Getzlaf ,Eaves is strong and can shoot the puck and reminds me of maroon . I think lucid Eberle and Hopkins will need to gel to keep that first line on their heels and will also need to manage the puck well if up against the kesler,silveberg line.I’m confident maroon/caggula ,letestu kassian can handle Perry, Rakel and Thompson, and the oilers 4th line should hold their own against the ducks 4th line .faceoffs is a bit of a concern though if the oilers can ride the momentum swings and find clever ways to lose draws in their favour when they can’t be won as well as manage the lost draws properly they should be able to hold their own and not spend too much time chasing.mcdavid and draissityl should find ways to expose a weaker defence than San Jose and should find ways to create offence whether playing against either 1st or 2ND line. Should be interesting how this series unfolds.

  • Laziza

    I really don’t see ebz being here next season sure he played alright round 1 but he needs to have an amazing post season for peter to keep him. Hopefully poo and ebz are gone so we can sign the guys that can actually make a difference in a game. Especially with these contracts coming up soon. Sure you can call me an ebz hater idc but truth is he hasn’t really been a factor all year long he’s facial expressions pre game and post game is just terrible and has changed big time prob sour hall is gone speaking of that lil bitc* anyone hear his podcast whata punk lol. And no im not a bandwagonner I been a fan long time and a on reader for a while this is my first post.

  • Apparently Jim Hughson along with Craig Simpson is calling the next series…A part of me would be very happy with Quinn and DeBrusk.

    I know some people here aren’t fans of Quinn, but he knows the team. He knows what the team has been through in the last 7 years, and he knows what they’ve faced in the last 2 seasons that are relevant to their performance on the ice.

    Randorf didn’t seem too excited and didn’t have any insight on the team whatsoever.

    This may be something insignificant for most, and that’s fair. But I think it would be cool for a guy who’s called over half a decade of losses to be calling some playoff wins.

  • Keg on Legs

    I think the Oil should be fine in this series as the Ducks didn’t blow Calgary out in any games and the Flames had a below sub-par Brian Elliot tending the twine, Dabot is no Elliot