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The Good Stuff From The First Round – Western Conference

We looked yesterday at all of the good stuff from the first round in the Eastern Conference. Today, let’s go through everything that went down in the wild West. Edmonton? Winning something other than a draft lottery? The Hawks? Can barely even score one goal? Jake Allen is Dominik Hasek now? Playoff hockey, my friends. It’s the best.

SAN JOSE VS. EDMONTON

While the matchups in the West may not have been as ‘sexy’ as the East, there were still a few series’ to be excited about. This was one of them.

Edmonton is a lot of fun to watch, and you can’t help but feel happy for a fanbase that has gone through so much over the last decade. McDavid is the best player in the NHL, so there’s that aspect of it, too. On the other hand, San Jose is a team who’s coming off of a finals appearance, and who knows that their window is closing fast. It’s always fun watching two teams at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum go at it, and this matchup certainly didn’t disappoint.

Here’s the best from the series.

Edmonton’s improved play without Connor McDavid

Coming into the series, one thing I was really worried about from Edmonton’s perspective was how they were going to be able to perform with Connor McDavid off the ice. In the regular season, their results plummeted with their best player on the bench, which is why I originally had the Sharks winning relatively easily. Man, was I wrong.

Here’s a look at Edmonton’s even strength regular season numbers with and without McDavid on the ice:

CF% xGF% SCF%
McDavid on ice 53.04 56.11 60.39
McDavid off ice 48.5 46.61 45.68

Pretty drastic difference, right? Somehow, though, Edmonton was able to bridge the gap come playoff time, with the team pulling their weight much more effectively. Here are Edmonton’s even strength playoff numbers with and without McDavid.

CF% xGF% SCF%
Mcdavid on ice 53.62 55.93 60.87
Mcdavid off ice 51.21 50.78 48.0

Yeah, Edmonton’s numbers (especially scoring chances) definitely took a huge hit without 97 on the ice, but that’s to be expected. This was, without a doubt, one of the biggest keys to Edmonton’s win. Are the Sharks the powerhouse team that they were just a year ago? No, they’re not, but they’re still a well-constructed team that can hurt you.

All but four Oilers recorded a point in the first round – that’s pretty impressive. Edmonton, after so much of the season was driven by one player, finally came together in round one. If you’re an Oilers fan, that’s definitely something to be excited about.

McDavid’s beautiful hit on Marcus Sorensen

Clean open ice hits are becoming a thing of the past, which is why one of my favourite moments of the first round came when Connor McDavid decided he was going to try to Murder Marcus Sorensen.

I mean, come on. That’s about as perfect of a hit as you can make. That’s it. Just wanted to show my appreciation for this hit.

Joe Thornton played the series on one leg

Some call it foolish and irresponsible. Some commend Thornton for grinding it out. Truth is, if you were in Thornton’s position – 37 years old, no cup, just went to the finals – you would have made the same decision. These guys don’t think long term. Think about how many of them rush back from concussions. Hell, Zach Werenski returned to the game after almost getting decapitated agaisnt Pittsburgh. All they think about is winning, and it’s hard to blame them when they make decisions like this.

I don’t want to speculate, but here’s a decent bet on when, where, and how Thornton was injured.

The funny thing is that the injury, if we’re assuming this is it, came against Vancouver. It was in Vancouver’s best interests that San Jose won this series, as the 4th round pick the Canucks received in the Jannik Hansen trade could have upgraded to a first rounder had San Jose won the cup. Unlikely, but still. Poor Vancouver.

Anyways, we hear about these sorts of ‘heroics’ all the time in hockey. Of course, we all remember Patrice Bergeron playing with a punctured lung, which is one of many memorable players-playing-with-crippling-injuries situations.

What would Jumbo Joe have done had he scored 4 goals in a game while playing with a torn up knee? We can only speculate, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious.

Zack Kassian – the player and the beard

Listen up when I say this because I don’t take good playoff facial hair lightly: Zack Kassian grew the second best chops I have ever seen on a professional athlete, second only to Dustin McGowan.

I mean, Jesus. LOOK at these things!

That’s not the only thing Kassian grew though. He grew on Oilers fans (ha ha).

Let’s be honest here. Zack Kassian is a bit of a goon, right? He’s not a very good NHL player, but it’s always fun when these guys seem to come through in the playoffs. We saw it in the Toronto series, to a larger degree, with Tom Wilson, and we saw it in this series as well.

He scored two goals in the series, both game-winners, in games two and three. Here they are in all their glory.

Game 2 (shorthanded, nonetheless)…

Game 3…

Honestly, good for him. Sports, in general, are more fun when the unlikely hero comes through.

Imagine how the Sharks must have felt, though? Zack Kassian. Man. Let’s see if he can keep the clutchess going in the next round against Anaheim.

Edmonton’s resilience

The playoffs are extra fun because teams know that each game is just as important as the next. Sure, you can mail it in once in a while during an 82-game regular season, but in a seven game series, you’ve got no time to waste.

I was really worried about the Oilers when they got absolutely spanked 7-0 in game four. The Oil had just won two in a row, taken a 2-1 series lead, and… damnit. The Sharks were back. Except, no, they weren’t, because the Oilers didn’t roll over and die – they played their hearts out and took back control of the series.

Game five was my personal favourite, and I’m sure it was for many of you, too. Like I said, it would have been easy for Edmonton to just give in, especially after getting a seven-spot hung on them the previous game. Instead, they fought their asses off.

Down 3-2 with under five minutes to go in the third, Oscar Klefbom ties the game on this insane slapper.

Then, in overtime, David Desharnais scored the biggest goal for the Edmonton Oilers in a decade.

Listen, the Davidson for Desharnais trade was a pretty bad move on Edmonton’s part. However, I’m sure fans and management would do it all over again knowing that Little D would be one of the main reasons they’re off to the second round.

The Oilers still lost the trade, but… Adam Larsson was fantastic

I’m not going to get into why Edmonton lost the trade. There are many other articles with much better writers who can tell you. What I will say, though, is that Adam Larsson was an absolute rock for the Oilers throughout the series.

This is a guy who, after having a so-so regular season, really turned it on come the playoffs. Here’s how his numbers match up.

CF% xGF% SCF%
Larsson reg. seas. 50.02 50.39 52.12
Larsson playoffs 52.94 55.49 60.87

Good for Larsson. Will he ever be a true, top pairing d-man? It certainly looks bleak. However, if this is the type of player he can consistently be, the Oilers will be happy. Hey, what’s Taylor Hall up to anyways?

I wonder if he was at the club with Kris Versteeg?

Okay, okay. I’ll play nice. Anyways, I’m excited to see where Edmonton can take this. It always makes things more interesting there are good Canadian teams.

Also, it’s great to see the Great One this excited about a team.

NASHVILLE VS. CHICAGO

Chicago scored 3 goals all series

There are three very distinct moments from Chicago’s perspective that stand out for me from this series.

1.

2.

3.

It’s just too easy…

You know, it’s a shame Jonathan Toews didn’t feel like scoring 10 goals this series. You know, he could have if he wanted to.

Patrick Kane is a huge baby

You could call Patrick Kane a number of things – humble in defeat isn’t one of them.

After the Preds absolutely laid waste to the Hawks, Kane decided to give his thoughts on how Nashville absolutely ran Chicago’s show. Here’s what he had to say:

Buddy, your team just got absolutely smoked in four straight games.

Literally every ‘expert’ picked the Hawks to win. The gap between these two teams really wasn’t that large, especially with Nashville vastly underperforming during the regular season, which is why a bunch of us over at TLN (we weren’t the only ones) picked Nashville for the quote unquote ‘upset’.

Sorry, Stevie.

Viktor Arvidsson is so good

If you’re a stats nerd, it’s likely that Viktor Arvidsson has been on your radar for quite some time. To the majority of NHL fans, though, this isn’t a household name. That’s going to change, if it hasn’t already.

By every relative measure, Arvidsson was one of Nashville’s best players during the regular season. He scored 61 points (31 of those being goals) and is a welcome addition to a forward group that already includes some great, young pieces. It’s funny, Nashville’s problem for years was that they never had any elite forwards. Now they have a few of them.

Anyways, once the playoffs rolled around, Arvidsson kicked his game up a notch. He scored four points in the sweep, including this goal.

Sneaky, sneaky. Arvidsson also capped off the series with an empty netter in game four. He goooood.

Pekka Rinne was incredible

Pekka Rinne has taken a lot of heat for his play over the past few seasons, and deservedly so. his 2015/16 regular season was well below average, as he posted a .908 SV%. Not good enough. This season, he performed better, posting a SV% of .918, which is right around league average.  He also doesn’t have the best playoff track record, although his performance so far this year may change that narrative.

As I mentioned, the Chicago Blackhawks scored all of three goals during this series. Pekka Rinne started all four games for Nashville, posting a .976 SV% for the series.

Nashville’s next opponent is the St. Louis Blues, and we all know how Jake Allen performed for them in the first round. If these guys stay hot, this may be one of the lowest scoring series’ we’ve seen in years. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

ST. LOUIS VS. MINNESOTA

Wild dominated the Blues, still lost

The Minnesota Wild absolutely, 100% deserved to win this series. Take a look at how lopsided shot attempts were throughout the series.

Game 1 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 52 (!!) to 26

Game 2 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 24 to 22 (but look at the attempts)

Game 3 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 41 to 31

Game 4 – Shots tied at 28

Game 5 – Minnesota outshoots St. Louis 37 to 27

Jake Allen single-handedly stole this series for St. Louis. The Blues, as a team, had under 40% possession through all five games. They also had under 40% of the expected goals in the series and contributed nearly 43% of all scoring chances. That’s expansion-level bad. Jake Allen was, without question, the only player who kept St. Louis in it.

Bruce Boudreau almost died on the bench

You know what, it’s hard to fault Boudreau for getting all worked up. If my team dominated like the Wild did and still came out on the losing end in four of five game, I’d lose my god damn mind. Here’s Boudreau looking terrible on the Wild bench.

This is a Bruce Boudreau safe space, so there will be no more making fun of him here. He’s one of the best coaches in the NHL and deserves to be treated with RESPECT (seriously, though, how relieved do you think he was that this didn’t go to a game seven?).

Jake Allen stole the series

Outside of Pekka Rinne, Jake Allen was the best goaltender in round one. Actually, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Allen was actually the better of the two, just because Nashville actually played well. Honestly, St. Louis played like the expansion-era San Jose Sharks. They were terrible.

Minnesota couldn’t get anything past Allen, especially when he was making saves like this.

And this…

Man, was he ever on his game. Check out how Allen fared on shots from different areas.

That’s other-worldly. The Blues decided to move on from Elliott and stick with Allen, and many questioned their decision after a rough regular season. I wonder what those people have to say now.

CALGARY VS. ANAHEIM

A Randy Carlyle team played good hockey

Randy Carlyle set the Toronto Maple Leafs back *at least* five years, so forgive me for being surprised that the guy who couldn’t figure out how to use a toaster actually got his team to sweep a playoff series.

Anaheim got really, really lucky

Do I have it out for Randy? Maybe, but let’s not kid ourselves – Anaheim wasn’t necessarily the better team in this series, and certainly not so good that they deserved the sweep.

The Ducks were a sub-50% corsi team, with a mark of 48.83. That ranks sixth worst in the first round. Calgary placed sixth best. The Ducks also lost the expected goals battle and were decimated in scoring chances.

The playoffs are just as much about getting hot at the right time as they are about actually playing better than the other team. John Gibson gets hot, Brian Elliott goes cold, and that’s the series.

There’s really not much to this matchup. Calgary has a history of losing in Anaheim, and that continued (clearly). These are two teams with no real history between one another and the series was more of a snoozer than anything.

Then there’s this. It was probably the most interesting thing to come out of the series. The Flames broadcast crew, I guess thinking their mics weren’t recording, ripped into Dougie Hamilton for taking a penalty. I wonder if they spoke to him that way in the room after the game?

On to round two!

(Check out round one highlights from the East here) 

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Enthusiastic and well-paced writing. Nice additional content for Nation readers.

    Unfortunate mainstream media moronisms in the Oilers section – plenty. Too many stereotypes and assumptions about the Oil to get into. Also several running through the article about the other western teams. Very unfortunate eastern leanings in what otherwise was an entertaining write-up.

    Evan please try to learn a little more about the Western teams for your second round write-ups. If you could I think I’ve actually look forward to your articles.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Biggest beef – sure there was some doubt that Oilers fared well in the Hall-Larsson trade at the start of the season… But if you don’t look at the results here after all is said and done and going into the second round and come to the conclusion that Edmonton is a better team with Larsson on the back end

      Well then you’re an idiot.

      • Evan Presement

        You guys are funny. Sorry, but I refuse to believe that a defenseman who scored 19 points and had slightly above average defensive underlying numbers had THAT BIG of an influence on this team making the playoffs. Rather, I think a full, healthy season (and 100 points) of McDavid, Draisaitl, Klefbom, and Talbot were the main reasons the Oilers made it to where they are now. Hall had a fantastic season in NJ – his results were amazing despite playing with an awful, awful team. Would the Oilers still have made the playoffs had Hall been on the team? Absolutely they would have and you’d be lying to yourself if you said they wouldn’t. Everyone knew this was a team that would do better this season. Give some credit to the guys who actually did the most to get them there.

        • Not a First Tier Fan

          I’d look at it this way – which player had more of an impact in the results of their team?

          Oilers wouldn’t have made the playoffs or had the season they had without shoring up the back end. Sorry – as good as McDavid is (and he IS the freaking best) and as food as Talbot plays, neither would have had the seasons they did without a solid defence. Oilers have been plagued with the worst defence in the league for a decade with the known results. Bring in Larsson, add Sekara and Russell, keep Klefbomber healthy for a whole season and all of a sudden the team takes off.

          Hall didn’t have the impact on The Devils as Larsson did, and based on the standings the Devils desperately missed the solid defence that they gave up with Larsson.

          Ergo – Oilers won the trade. Whether they would have made the playoffs with or without Hall is irrelevant. They wouldn’t have made the show without Larsson – regardless of the media’s ‘conventional wisdom’

          • Evan Presement

            Maybe you should actually check the numbers instead of dismissing something you clearly have no clue about. Being a good defensive player comes in a number of different forms. It’s fact that when Hall was on the ice for New Jersey, he had an insanely positive defensive impact – better than Larsson’s with EDM.

            If you don’t want to hear it – fine, that’s your problem. But to completely ignore data because you don’t agree with its conclusions is irresponsible and, honestly, really damn stupid.

          • Evan Presement

            Uhhhh, yes. His relative to team numbers were off the charts good. Also, if you take a look at Larsson’s defensive shot locations compared to Hall’s, you’d see that Hall actually had a (much) greater defensive impact.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            Oh man Evan… time to put the glue away. You’re at your limit.

            Anyone who has watched Hall while he played for Edmonton knows your pissing up a rope here. He’s a talented player, and he’s missed – but defensive impact is NOT the phrase that comes to mind when you think about him.

            Especially not when considering him against a beast like Larsson.

            Maybe you should stick to writing about the Eastern teams…

          • Evan Presement

            Maybe you should actually check the numbers instead of dismissing something you clearly have no clue about. Being a good defensive player comes in a number of different forms. It’s fact that when Hall was on the ice for New Jersey, he had an insanely positive defensive impact – better than Larsson’s with EDM.

            If you don’t want to hear it – fine, that’s your problem. But to completely ignore data because you don’t agree with its conclusions is irresponsible and, honestly, really damn stupid.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            So maybe instead of thinking that Hall has suddenly completely changed his stripes and is now an extremely good defensive player you should interpret those numbers to show just how bad the NJ defense is since they traded away their best defenceman. That interpretation coincidentally jives with their place in the standings. If Hall is one of your best defensively than you’ve got serious trouble on the blue line.

            Don’t try to tell an Oiler fan about what happens without good D. We lived it for a decade.

          • Evan Presement

            Buddy I’m a Leafs fan – we haven’t had a good defence in god knows how long. The thing is, Hall was absolutely fine in Edmonton as well. I’m assuming you’re not going to believe me but, again, check the numbers.

            Also, I hate the ‘check the standings’ argument. Check the standings when Sid and Ovi came into the league. They put up MONSTER seasons and their teams did nothing. New Jersey is a terrible team who happens to employ one of the best wingers in the game. Hall is not the reason they perform so poorly.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            Never said Hall wasn’t a good player or that his being in Jersey was what caused their troubles this year. Yes – Hall is a great player.

            And it could very well be that his defensive numbers when on the Oilers were relatively good. He’s an unfortunate bastard in that he went from playing for a team with a terrible defense to playing for another team with terrible defence. Why did they have such bad defence? Because the Devils sacrificed their best D-man in order to get Hall. The lesson here is that while offense can be replaced in most cases, good solid stable defence is very hard to find.

            At this point though I’m feeling like I’m beating my head against the wall. I’m hoping you can fit some time in for the Western conference games this round because I’d look forward to a less opinion-based but just as enthusiastic write-up from ya.

        • The Dave

          Taylor Hall scored 53 points with New Jersey. Eberle scored the same number of goals and had 2 fewer assists and we were all disappointed with him all year. You really think Hall would’ve helped the Oilers more than Larsson did?

          Let’s play the game again: how many regular season Oilers games did you watch this year? Your talk sounds a bit like someone who is just looking at a stat line and doesn’t know jack about the team: “The Oilers are way better now because of the [insert top 2 forwards in scoring, top defenceman in scoring, starting goaltender]”. Great analysis.

          Talbot’s numbers year over year were pretty stable – he played just as well last year. McDavid being healthy helped, but we lost 100% of Taylor Hall’s offense so the increase in scoring from McDavid is blunted somewhat. On the Oilers they had plenty of talent up front, but on Right Defence we had virtually no NHL-grade natural righties last season. Adding Benning and Larsson and Russel (playing on his offside) actual swapped out our entire starting RD roster, and that made more of a difference to this team than any loss of scoring.

          But yeah, New Jersey won the trade. A 53 point winger with an AAV of $6M – those are much harder to find than good right shooting defencemen on cap-friendly deals long-term.

        • Play Dirty

          I don’t like to hassle writers but you sure come across as a duck. You’re calling out guys that have in all likelihood watched 88 Oilers games this year and you completely disregarding their extended ‘eye test’. More than a few of us watch every fk’n game and we saw what this team was like before this year and we saw what it was like this year. We may actually know a thing or two about the the games ourselves. You do realize that coaches, GM’s, scouts go to games and don’t sit in front of their computers to get their impressions right?

        • Gary Empey

          Yesterday you wrote about the Eastern Conference. What got on comments mostly complains from Edmonton Oiler fans. Today you write about the Western Conference. Even going out of your way to mention how well they played as a team, by upsetting last year Stanley Cup finalists. Oiler fans are still complaining. Looking at the comments here it is easy to see why Oiler fans get no respect from the rest of the country.

  • Makaveli

    WOW, Oilers are in the second round of the playoffs, Larsson is playing punishing defense and is a huge reason for the Oilers turn around this year, mean while, Hall still cant even get a sniff of the playoffs… and people STILL think the Oilers lost the Hall/Larsson trade. Oilers won the trade because Larsson makes the Oilers a more balanced and competitive team to play against, Hall did not. Maybe the people who still think it was a bad trade, don’t enjoy winning as much as I do.

  • The Dave

    I’ll consider you slightly redeemed for that awful article on Eastern conference because this one is a bit more balanced, and you referenced an article where Steve “The Worst Human” Simmons was dead wrong, and I can drink to that.

    Flames-Anaheim section could’ve used this beauty from Brian Elliot:

  • Abagofpucks

    the other day i was feeling sorry for taylor hall, here we are going into round 2 and poor taylor stuck on another 70 point team out of the playoffs so i was thinking lets cheer taylor up why dont we rename ford hall taylor hall have him come down and let him have all the free drinks he wants and he can lead all the ford ….. oops i mean all the taylor hall patrons as they cheer the oilers on what do you think.

  • RyanCoke

    It’s funny now that toronto and edmonton can have real beef. It was always battle of the basement and now it’s 2 promising teams with real things to chirp about.

  • btrain

    I don’t mind the article but I just do not appreciate the unmarked subjectivity littered throughout. The problem for me is that this article presents opinion as fact rather than qualifying it as an opinion. I think it is fine for you have an opinion about something but as a professional writer you need to identify that it is of your opinion. If you do not do this, the only thing that separates you from us commenters is your writing ability. You think Zack Kassian and Tom Wilson are terrible hockey players, I question what credentials you have to make such an evaluation and I require evidence to support this statement. If you are in the NHL, let alone scoring goals in the playoffs, not sure how you are possibly a terrible hockey player. Is there only one way to look at the stats you show with and without McDavid, or are these numbers misleading on their own? For example, McDavid gets the most ice time and first dibs in offensive situations on the team for forwards. He also happens to be an amazing hockey player. Does it not make sense that he would be better in these areas than the rest of his team with that in mind? Is it fair to lump everyone else together playing without McDavid to conclude that they all struggle without him?

    Anyway, I don’t want to be overly critical but if you are going to post about team to its fan base, you need to be more careful about how you present your opinion and be sure to separate it from fact.

    • Evan Presement

      Appreciate the actual criticism rather than ‘WHAT YOU’RE SAYING IS WRONG’ without having anything to back it up.

      I value stats pretty highly and I’m not too fond of the ‘eye test’. Obviously, if you make the NHL, you’re an elite hockey player. I was talking about their abilities in relation to those of their peers. These are both players who don’t score, take a BUNCH of penalties, and if you look at their relative to team stats, are huge detriments both defensively and offensively. There’s the intangibles argument, sure, but at the end of the day intangibles are just inputs and if the outputs don’t match, then what’s the point?

      As for McDavid, you’re right – it does make sense that the team does better with him than without, although that wasn’t my argument. The numbers from the regular season without McDavid on the ice are not representative of how all teams do without their superstars. There’s definitely an expected dip in the team’s production, but the regular season difference was atrocious. The difference in the playoffs is more like how an actually good team performs without their best player.

      • oileriderfan

        I didn’t mind the article, but your commentary toward Zack Kassian, and as btrain so eloquently put it, your “unmarked subjectivity” when presenting your opinion on a team to its fan base makes you seem less than credible. The fact that you think Kassian is nothing but a goon and not a very good hockey player tells me you have not personally watched the Oilers play much this season. I think the fact that McLellan puts as much trust, or more, into Kassian by having him on the PK and playing meaningful minutes speaks to how good of a hockey player he actually is. The fact that you made comparison to a Leaf player and have Mr. Mathews picture as your avatar also speaks to where your opinion comes from.

        • Evan Presement

          I’ve watched TOO MUCH Oilers this season, methinks. Again, you’re about the intangibles, I’m not. There’s our difference. Also, what comparison to a Leafs player did a make? And the Matthews profile picture is very funny in this context.

        • oileriderfan

          Also, you can take your advanced stats and shove it. I believe that if you put together a full team, based only on an individual players advanced stats and put them up against a team built on chemistry and the immeasurable tangibles that often go ignored by advanced stats guys, the team with chemistry wins out a majority of the time. You can’t money ball a hockey team, it just doesn’t work that way.

      • btrain

        You are using surface stats to arrive at very strong opinions. The McDavid stat you present is maybe a great example of how good he is but it provides poor evidence to support any concrete conclusion about his teammates without diving much further into the numbers. I am no statistician but the stats you present are incredibly limited given the complexity of this sport. Still useful to support an opinion but not good enough to arrive at concrete conclusions by itself. Therefore it’s not appropriate to make such strong statements as being fact with this being your only evidence.

    • Himynameistaylor

      There was
      The Gilmour trade
      The Bolland trade and subsequent contract (LOL)
      The pics that were used to select Rickard Rakell and John Gibson, Leafs took Tyler Biggs with the pick in exchange (LOOOOOOOOOOOOL)
      The Sittler trade
      Steen and Carlo Coliacovo for THE Lee Stempniak

      ….Scott Neidermeyer for Tom Kurvers

      the first Kessel trade lmao

      And my favourite, lowly, not gonna be as good as, average goalie prospect Tuukka Rask for World Beater, perennial Vezina finalist, hero of all 0 playoff games he played for Toronto, Andrew Raycroft.

      Those are just SOME.

      Go Lerfs tho amirite

  • Oilers247

    I mostly enjoyed the article, though as I also found with the Eastern wrap up, way too much subjectivity & personal bias liberally sprinkled throughout. As well, the immaturity level the writer has exhibited in the comments section is just embarrassing, even resorting to personal attacks. For a Leafs fan he’s pretty thin-skinned….