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.