In the hockey world, that battle turned out to be sport imitating life as Nashville disposed of Anaheim in six games after winning 4-2 in Game 6. When you drop a playoff series there’s a host of things that could’ve gone wrong for Anaheim, we’ll take a look at four things that made the Ducks fly south for the rest of the season.
1. Defensive nightmare
Anaheim was a chic pick for some to get through the first round and cause trouble later on in the playoffs. One part of their game that was a bit too overlooked, however, was how questionable their defense was. With Ray Emery and Dan Ellis having to hold down the fort in goal, the Ducks D had to be on top of their game in a big way. They weren’t.
Taking a peek at the team’s plus/minus ratings in the playoffs (yes it’s a flawed in its ways, bear with us) you’ll see that the Ducks blue line didn’t fare too well. Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin were the only two players on the plus side with a +1 each. Regular season plus/minus monster Toni Lydman was a -2, Luca Sbisa was a -4, and Lubomir Visnovsky was a -2 as well. That ain’t getting it done and Emery and Ellis paid for the loose defensive coverage with their goals against average. Emery’s was a 3.23 while Ellis’ in limited duty was 5.85.
2. Power play goals or bust
It’s no wonder that Ducks GM Bob Murray was campaigning for more calls against Nashville earlier in the series. The Ducks power play was their one consistent source of offense. Of the 20 goals scored in the playoffs by Anaheim, eight came with the man advantage. They also had one empty net goal and a shorthanded goal. The point being here: Anaheim got killed at even strength. Nashville outscored Anaheim 16-10 at even strength in the series. If you’re not keeping up with your opponent when there’s the same number of players on the ice you’re going to have problems.
3. Face off failure
We’re going to point the finger squarely at Ryan Getzlaf who finished the series winning draws at 48%. For the guy who’s the top line center he has to be better at winning the puck to his teammates. On Shea Weber’s late game-tying goal in Game 5 it was Saku Koivu who was unable to beat Mike Fisher to win the puck. Those kinds of failures shouldn’t happen considering the class of player we’re talking about with both of them.
4. No supporting help at all
We love what the line of Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry brings to the table and they answered the bell in a huge way. As for the rest of the lines, things fall off a quickly fast. While Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu got their points, guys on the third and fourth lines struggled to get any offense going consistently. The Ducks lack in depth scoring and it showed in a big way throughout this series as Nashville kept bringing wave after wave of pressure from all their lines. Most of Nashville’s players might not be well known but they showed the Ducks the blueprint of how to succeed in the NHL without even trying.
The Ducks have some moves to consider in the offseason as well as getting Jonas Hiller back and healthy. They’ll be tough again next year but we can’t help but wonder how much tougher this series could’ve been if they’d adopted a handful of some of those old 2007 Stanley Cup winning tactics.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: