The Anaheim Ducks will take another shot at an Alberta team as the tangle with the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Edmonton defeated Anaheim last time they met in the playoffs, winning the series 4-1 in the 2006 Western Conference Final.
But a lot has changed since then, with the Pacific Division winners sweeping the Calgary Flames in the first round and the Oilers taking down the San Jose Sharks in six games.
It should be noted that the Anaheim/Calgary series was closer than the sweep suggests, with three of four games decided by just one goal. Game Three went to overtime before the Ducks took the series in Game Four. Anaheim is 18-9 in playoff games over the past three years.
Edmonton is enjoying its first playoff run since 2006, but they’re here to win now and the novelty has worn off. Expectations are high for the Oilers after taking out the Sharks and for good reason. Edmonton is young, healthy and skilled. They have a hot goalie in Cam Talbot and have every reason in the world to think they could take down another California hockey team.
Anaheim is the bigger team in the series and they’ll look to play a grinding style against the faster, younger Oilers. They scored “dirty goals” against the Flames in the first round and got close to the net, where they made life hell for the opposition. They’ll score on wraparounds, rebounds and bounces. They’ll get a lot of second chances if Edmonton struggles to clear the crease.
Ryan Getzlaf led the way for the Ducks, with five points in the first round – including two goals. He averaged 22:18 in ice time per game, plus he had 10 shots on goal. Getzlaf is the top line centre for a reason and he’s capable of dominating and taking over a game with a big hit. Just ask Mark Giordano.
Rickard Rakell also had five points in the first round, including two goals. He had seven shots on goal and averaged 15:57 of ice time a game. The 23-year-old skates a solid two-way game and lines up at any forward position. Jakob Silfverberg was also a factor, with three points against the Flames. He averaged 18:17 of ice time a game.
Connor McDavid was every bit the leader he needed to be in the first round against the Sharks. He had four points, including two goals and two assists. He averaged 21:21 of ice time a game and registered 15 shots on goal. And he did so with San Jose hounding him every time he took to the ice. He’ll be likewise challenged by the Ducks.
21-year-old Leon Draisaitl is one of the most effective players the Oilers have when it comes to playing Anaheim. He had eight points in five games, including two overtime game-winners. He averaged 17:47 of ice time a game against the Sharks and managed three points, but he could find an extra gear against the Ducks.
If anyone seemed to be everywhere against San Jose, it was Zack Kassian. He had two goals and massive game-changing hits, plus he averaged 15:32 of ice time a game and managed 13 shots on goal. And Milan Lucic had two points in six games, including a goal and an assist. He averaged 15:39 of ice time a game and could make trouble for the Ducks in their own end.
Defensively, the Ducks struggled to find much ground on the Flames when killing penalties. They allowed six Calgary goals on 16 chances and could stand to tighten things up a bit. They’ll play a lot of containment hockey, especially against McDavid, and would love to have injured defencemen Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen back in the fold soon.
Hampus Lindholm had two assists in four games against the Flames, plus he averaged 21:58 of ice time a game. He’s a great shutdown player and is a reliable defenceman in all game situations, but he could stand to shoot the puck more. He only had two on target against Calgary.
Rookie defenceman Shea Theodore was a revelation in the first round. He averaged 20:09 of ice time a game and had five points, including two goals and three assists. He had nine shots on goal and is emerging as an excellent defenceman, but he could still use the support of his teammates.
The Anaheim Ducks will win more faceoffs and could carry the balance of the puck possession game, which means the Oilers will fight for space. Adam Larsson averaged 23:21 against San Jose and had an assist, plus six shots on goal. He remains one of Edmonton’s best weapons against an active offence and should play a big role against the Ducks.
Andrej Sekera also nets plenty of ice time. He averaged 23:11 against the Sharks and had 10 shots on goal to go with two assists. The 30-year-old is mobile and should pull the puck out of trouble. He could still stand to generate a physical edge to his game, but he’s cool under pressure.
Oscar Klefbom had three points against San Jose, including two goals and one assist. He averaged 21:19 of ice time a game and had 11 shots on goal. 29-year-old Kris Russell had 21:40 of ice time a game against the Sharks and had seven shots on goal.
23-year-old John Gibson is establishing himself as a starting netminder of note in Anaheim. He picked up three wins against Calgary, with a goals against average of 2.59 and a save percentage of .926. He allowed just nine goals on 122 shots. He was weak in Game Three, when he allowed four goals on 16 shots and was pulled in favour of Jonathan Bernier.
Bernier scooped up 33 minutes in relief of Gibson and pulled off a Game Three win. He didn’t allow a goal on 16 shots. Bernier is a solid backup choice for the Ducks and gives Anaheim some flexibility in goal.
Cam Talbot was 4-2 against the Sharks, with a 2.03 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. He posted two shutouts in the first round and was a major key to victory for the Oilers, but he was pulled in Game Five. Talbot didn’t panic after that, however, and proved a calm and consistent style. He’s also improving in terms of rebound control, only allowing two goals on rebounds against San Jose.
Laurent Brossoit is the backup in Edmonton. The 24-year-old sat in for 27 minutes against the Sharks and did not fare well, allowing two goals on just eight shots. He posted a goals against average of 4.42 with a .750 save percentage.
Who Will Win
This series will be a collision of styles. The Oilers will play a run-and-run style and will hope to overwhelm the Ducks with speed and skill. Anaheim will grind it out and play a physical contest. They’re bigger down the middle and can dominate in the faceoff circle.
But the Sharks were bigger, too, and Edmonton found a way to handle San Jose in the first round. They could do the same against the Ducks, plus they hypothetically own the goaltending edge.
My call: Edmonton in seven.