Prior to Sunday’s game, many Oilers fans were thinking sweep. It is understandable, considering their team won the first two games on the road and the excitement of playoff hockey often breeds excited, positive thoughts. Your emotions run high, you get excited, and what is strange and great about the playoffs, is how concern and angst can flood your brain instantly after a loss like last night.
Were the Oilers thinking sweep? I highly doubt it, but they weren’t ready to play and Rikard Rakell scored the fastest opening goal in Anaheim Ducks’ playoff history 25 seconds into the first period. The Oilers played catchup the rest of the night. They were down 3-0 only 11:51 into the first period. It was terrible start.
Unlike the 7-0 drubbing in round one by San Jose, the Oilers fought back and tied the game at three, 8:40 into the second frame. Connor McDavid scored an incredible goal to tie the game and send Rogers Place into a frenzy. It was fitting, however, that the Ducks regained the lead 48 seconds later, and the emotional rollercoaster ride for Oilers fans continued.
Cam Talbot didn’t like the fourth goal. Chris Wagner fired a wrister from a sharp angle that deflected off a stick, lost momentum and deflected off Talbot’s blocker into his own goal. After his stellar play in game two, it would be foolish to blame the loss on Talbot, because the harsh reality is the entire team was not ready to play.
The Ducks scored on what looked like a designed play. “A team scored on us the same way. We stole the idea,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle in his post-game scrum. The Ducks must have seen a few weaknesses in the Oilers forecheck and neutral zone play, because they used the long outlet pass to perfection on numerous occasions.
To their credit the Oilers battled back and the second period was their best of the series, and if John Gibson didn’t make a few huge stops, including robbing Patrick Maroon in the slot, the Oilers might have went into the third period in better shape. However, the first and third periods weren’t good enough and the entire team will need to be more focused on Wednesday.
- The Oilers need more from Jordan Eberle. His defensive game has improved, no doubt, but at some point he needs to show up offensively. The most concerning thing for me in his game is I’m not sure he’s had a great scoring chance all playoffs. In the regular season at least he had some chances and wasn’t finishing. “Not enough,” Todd McLellan replied when asked about what he is getting from Eberle. He then added, “This is his first time here, so what he’s done in the past (regular seasons) isn’t a direct comparison. He’s experiencing it for the first time,” said McLellan, who didn’t want to throw Eberle under the bus when the entire team was asleep for the first ten minutes. It is obvious McLellan wants more from Eberle, and Eberle wants to do more as well. “It is frustrating. The good thing is we are winning games, and up until tonight we hadn’t been giving up much defensively, but…”said Eberle. The fans are frustrated with Eberle, as is the coach and so is the player. But the harsh reality of the playoffs is he needs to show up soon. At the very least, he needs to create some quality chances and be emotionally involved in the game.
- McLellan said it was Eberle’s first time here, but it isn’t for Milan Lucic and I believe those two both need to do more. Lucic needs to get more physically involved in this series. He has shown he can find ways to contribute without scoring points, but we haven’t seen that this round and didn’t see much of it in round one. I’d like to see a bit more tenacity and anger from #27. We know he is capable of it, and against the Ducks it would be a valuable asset.
- I would go back to the four regular lines on Wednesday. The Oilers had won four in a row prior to Sunday’s 6-3 loss. McLellan switched the lines when they were down 3-0 and it worked for a bit, but they still allowed three more goals. I’d start the game with the same combos we’ve seen for the majority of the playoffs. It will be very hard to match that bad of a start in game four.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can’t finish. He has had some great looks. He’s skated very well this series. His edge work has been outstanding, none better than the chance he created last night in the second period, but once again he couldn’t score. You hope this is just a funk for RNH, but considering how many good looks he has had past few seasons and not finished, you wonder if he’ll be able to score 25 goals? If I’m the Oilers, I’m asking him to work on his accuracy and faceoffs this off-season.
- The Ducks have some really difficult decisions heading into free agency. Even if they convince Kevin Bieksa to waive his NMC, which I expect he will, and they are able to protect Lindholm, Vatanen, Fowler and Manson, then they still have to leave Jakob Silfverberg available. Bob Murray will have to make a trade and Silfverberg is a very attractive trade asset. He makes $3.75 million for two more seasons. The Ducks will want a young player they don’t have to protect. I doubt the Ducks would trade him to Edmonton, but if I’m Chiarelli I’d be putting in a call. Silfverberg would look great on the RW in Edmonton.The other option is to trade Vatanen for a forward. Either way the Ducks have two attractive trade options leading up to the expansion draft.
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