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.
Now, players are known to at least try to return to games after injuries, sometimes ultimately demeaning such efforts unsuccessful.
So, it’s possible that the Washington Capitals should still be concerned about defenseman Nate Schmidt. The solid depth blueliner was helped off the ice after a hit by Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the good news is that he was at least able to make his way back for a spin later on in the same third period.
Does that mean he’ll be OK? We’ll see. The game is entering OT – the 18th of this round, a new NHL record – so a possible Schmidt injury could put Washington at a disadvantage during “free hockey.”
It makes sense that Toronto and Washington made it a new record, as this is the fifth time in six games that they beyond regulation in this series. Wow.
These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.
Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.
It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).
The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.
Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.
It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.
His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.
Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.
He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.
And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.
Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:
As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.
Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?
It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.
Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).
There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.
Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.