Finally, the second round begins, and the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks should put on quite a performance.
This will be a much more intense, hate-filled series than what Oilersnation witnessed in round one against the Sharks.
There was very little animosity last round. That will change and I suspect it might only take a period or two before each fanbase has a serious dislike for players on the other team.
Outside of cheering for your team, one of the best parts of sports if developing a deep hatred of the opposition. Many in Oilesnation haven’t felt this in a long time, but get ready, it will happen quickly.
Both the Ducks and Oilers have many skilled players to fear, but also a healthy dose of agitators, jerks and candidates to be public enemy #1.
Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Corey Perry and Josh Manson in Anaheim, and Zack Kassian, Milan Lucic, Darnell Nurse and Patrick Maroon with the Oilers all have the ability to make opposing fans loathe them. Characters like them make the game more fun.
Make no mistake, I expect some excellent hockey to be played. Ryan Getzlaf, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Rikard Rakell, Oscar Klefbom, Cam Fowler and others have the high-end skill hockey fans love, but this series will be rougher, tougher and more physical than what you witnessed in round one. Enjoy it.
These teams also have very different strategies.
“We were a line-matching hockey club in the preseason,” explained Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle “The things we’re doing now, we’ve done since the first day of training camp and exhibition games. It’s something we deem as necessary to give ourselves the best chance for success. Some people look at it as a negative, and for some teams, it can be a negative. We know that.”
The Ducks have played the matchup game all season, while the Oiles haven’t. It would make little sense for Todd McLellan to suddenly make a massive change to his approach. The worst thing a coach can do is make major systematic changes in the playoffs. Sure, you try to adapt and counter the opposition, and McLellan will want some matchups, like he did with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ line against Joe Pavelski last round, but McLellan and the Oilers haven’t been matchup committed all season, and it would be out of character to suddenly look for it as much as possible.
I’m sure you will see Klefbom and Adam Larsson out against Getzlaf’s line often, but watch how Carlyle runs his bench to ensure Kesler is out against McDavid. His team is used to the disruptions, while the Oilers aren’t. The last thing a coach should do is make massive changes to how he coaches and runs the bench. Small adjustments are needed, but those suggesting McLellan should have worked harder to get McDavid away from Vlasic/Braun last series, are grossly undervaluing the importance of continuity.
The Oilers finished the season with 103 points, eighth best in the NHL. They were successful all season, and to suggest a massive change to how McLellan runs the bench is simply foolish.
Of the remaining eight teams in the NHL playoffs, only Washington (118), Pittsburgh (111) and Anaheim (105) had more points than the Oilers. The Ducks are good, but so is Edmonton and this should be a compelling series.
I can’t wait to watch how it plays out.
Maroon – McDavid – Draisaitl
Lucic – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Caggiula – Letestu – Kassian
Pouliot – Desharnais – Slepyshev
Klefbom – Larsson
Sekera – Russell
Nurse – Benning
The Oilers only change could see Patrick Maroon back on the top line and Drake Caggiula shuffled down to the third line. No actual roster changes.
Ritchie – Getzlaf – Eaves
Cogliano – Kesler – Silfverberg
Rakell – Thompson – Perry
Wagner – Vermette – Shaw
Fowler – Montour
Lidholm – Manson
Theodore – Bieksa
The Ducks bluelines gets a boost with the return of Cam Fowler. He hasn’t played since early April. Hampus Lindholm will play, but he’s a bit banged up and we’ll see if the Oilers can exploit that. Sami Vatanen was deemed available for tonight by Randy Carlyle, but he has an upper-body injury and Ducks reporters don’t expect him to play.
It is interesting to see Nick Ritchie on the top line with Getzlaf, while Rakell is skating with Thompson and Perry on the “3rd line.”
- Perry and Rakell on the Ducks third line gives them an advantage in the bottom six. However, the Oilers did get great efforts from Zack Kassian, David Desharnais and Anton Slepyshev last round and they all scored huge goals. The battle of the bottom-six will be interesting to watch, and I’m curious which of the Oilers bottom two lines faces the Thompson trio the most.
- My favourite stat, which likely means nothing, unless you believe in the power of the Flying V.
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks were 2-1 all time in playoff Game 7s. Since they dropped Mighty from their name, they're 0-4 in playoff Game 7s.
— NHLNumbers (@NHLnumbers) April 26, 2016
- The D pair of Shea Theodore and Kevin Bieksa combined for nine points in the four games vs. the Flames. Theodore scored twice and is a very good offensive player. It is highly unlikely their production stays this high, but the Oilers needs to be aware of Theodore in the offensive zone.
- I felt Andrej Sekera struggled early in the series, but played much better in the final two games. He was fighting the puck earlier, and it led to extended D zone time. When his puck decisions are good he can be very effective, and he needs to start this series how he finished vs. the Sharks.
- The Ducks were the most penalized team in the regular season, but they had the fourth best PK. They gave Calgary 16 powerplays in round one, and the Flames crushed them scoring six times. The Ducks are aggressive and they will take penalties. The Oilers PP must make them pay if they hope to win.
- Conversely the Oilers need to be disciplined. They were the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde in round one. They took 20 penalties in games one, two and four, but were only shorthanded a combined six times in games three, five and six. Not surprisingly they won all three when they stayed out of the box. The Ducks PP was 23.1% in round one, fourth best, and 17th during the regular season at 18.7%. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler each had 20 PP points this year. They all play an important role and the return of Fowler should help their PP.
- Getzlaf had seven points in five games vs. the Oilers. McDavid and Draisailtl also had seven points, with Draisaitl scoring five EV goals. The Ducks don’t have a dominant defensive pair, Lindholm/Manson are good, but they aren’t dominant and they will face McDavid’s line a lot. The Oilers top line had success against them and Kesler’s line in the regular season and I expect the Oilers to challenge Lindholm early to see how healthy he is.
- The chirping started before puck drop. This morning a grumpy Carlyle had his playoff face off on already and said he expects the Oilers will be whining to the refs about faceoffs and other things. Classic. I love it.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are comfortable on the road. Since they last met in the 2006 playoffs the Ducks are 8-3 in a series when the win game one and they are 1-5 when they lose game one. Their only victory after losing came in 2007 in the third round when the beat the Red Wings in six games on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. The Oilers pull off the upset in game one with a 4-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl continues to score against the Ducks and picks up another goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: RNH picks up his first career playoff point and Eberle becomes the sixth Oiler this playoffs to score his first career playoff goal.
Watching at home tonight?
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