Cam Tucker

Predators aren’t satisfied with just making Western Conference Final

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Expectations for the Nashville Predators have been growing for some time.

They were one win away from reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago and then pulled off a highly polarizing, controversial trade in the summer, acquiring P.K. Subban from Montreal in exchange for Shea Weber.

It’s a deal that rocked the hockey world at the time and is still being discussed with plenty of fervor almost 11 months later, mainly because Subban and the Predators are still in the playoffs, and Weber and the Habs are not.

General manager David Poile has made some bold moves — beyond last year’s blockbuster involving Subban and Weber, two right-shooting star defensemen. He acquired Ryan Johansen from Columbus but had to move a promising young blue liner in Seth Jones to make it happen.

He has locked Filip Forsberg, once a young prospect the Predators acquired in a steal of a trade from Washington four years ago and now a significant scoring threat in Nashville, to a long-term contract, and has built a strong nucleus of good young players on the roster.

Losing in the second round was, a year ago, considered moving in the right direction for Poile and the Predators.

They took another step Sunday, advancing to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history, moving past the Blues in six games. That followed a clean sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks, the No. 1 seed in the conference going into the playoffs.

“I think we took a big step today¬†for this organization and this city, but that’s not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” Subban told The Tennessean.

“We’ve worked really hard to put ourselves in a good position. There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played, but we should enjoy this today. It’s a hell of an accomplishment for this organization.”

It’s not like the Predators stormed out of the gate in October, but despite any regular season struggles encountered along the way, they have really found their stride, especially through two rounds of the playoffs.

There are many different reasons for the Predators’ surge this post-season. For starters, Pekka Rinne continues to provide stellar goaltending. In 10 games, he has a ridiculous save percentage of .951 and has only twice allowed more than two goals in a single game. Of the teams remaining in the playoffs, Nashville has the second best penalty kill behind New York, and the fourth best power play.

Their leading goal scorers, at least right now, are both defensemen. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi share the team lead in goals with four (Ellis has nine points and Josi has eight). In fact, production from their blue line has been key and that continued in this series.

Ellis, Josi and Subban have 24 points between the three of them in the playoffs. Josi factored into the goal scoring Sunday, before the trio of Forsberg, Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson got involved by teaming up for the eventual winner early in the third period.

“Right now it means everything,” Rinne told NHL.com. “We haven’t gone further than this before. Obviously it’s a great feeling, but there’s a lot of work left.”

Randy Carlyle isn’t interested in Ducks’ history of Game 7 failures

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The Anaheim Ducks do not have a good history in Game 7s.

In fact, they have lost five straight times when forced into a seventh and deciding game of a playoff series. They’re facing another winner-take-all situation, this time in the second round against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

The Oilers jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first period of Sunday’s Game 6 and kept scoring in a 7-1 victory over the Ducks. It was bad all around for Anaheim. John Gibson was given the hook before the midway point of the first period and Jonathan Bernier gave up four goals of his own in relief. There was no chance of a miracle comeback this time.

And so it sets up the best the Stanley Cup playoffs can offer: A Game 7.

Anaheim’s recent inability to close out a series in such a situation dates back to 2009, although coach Randy Carlyle isn’t really interested in past history, which includes four straight playoffs in which the Ducks were sent packing after a Game 7 loss.

“I look at it as it’s not the same group,” said Carlyle. “I wasn’t here. So don’t pin any of the Game 7s on me. Simple as that.”

Carlyle coached the Ducks back in 2009 when they lost in seven games to the Detroit Red Wings. Bruce Boudreau was behind the bench for the past four seasons, including last year’s first-round defeat to the Nashville Predators — in seven games — that meant the end of his tenure in Anaheim.

“Our team is — we’ve got half the guys in here that haven’t been here for that stuff,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

“We’re going back with the preparation to get ready for a big game. It doesn’t really matter what the situation is. It’s a matter of win or go home.”

Orange crush: Oilers rout Ducks to force Game 7

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There was no way the Edmonton Oilers were going to let this lead get away.

After three straight losses, including Friday’s double OT defeat that included an epic and controversial third-period collapse, the Oilers rebounded to crush the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 7-1 on Sunday, forcing a seventh and deciding game on Wednesday.

The winner advances to the Western Conference Final to meet the Nashville Predators.

Oddly enough, on a night when the Oilers scored a converted touchdown, Connor McDavid didn’t even hit the score sheet. Instead, Leon Draisaitl lit it up with a five-point night, including a hat trick. He has 13 points in this series alone, and he started the Oilers on the right foot in the first period.

Draisaitl had a pair of goals in the opening period. He misfired on a breakaway opportunity after getting hooked from behind, but the puck still managed its way by John Gibson, who didn’t last long. Gibson gave up three goals in the first 8:25 of play and was promptly placed on the bench. Not that his replacement, Jonathan Bernier, fared any better. The Oilers ran away with this one.

By the end of the first period, it was 5-0.

By the end of the second period, it was 7-1.

Game 6 over (but not before some post-whistle shenanigans). Game 7 coming up.

While the Oilers were far and away the better team on Sunday, there is quite a challenge ahead of them Wednesday. They are without defenseman Andrej Sekera for the remainder of this series. Oscar Klefbom didn’t play in Game 6. With those two players out, Eric Gryba and Griffin Reinhart were inserted into the lineup.

Reinhart, selected fourth overall by the Islanders in 2012 and now in the Oilers organization, played the entire 2016-17 season in the AHL. With a spot in the final four up for grabs, the Oilers’ situation on defense is one to keep an eye on for Game 7.

Video: Draisaitl finishes pretty passing play to complete the hat trick

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The rout continues in Edmonton.

The Oilers took a 7-1 lead in Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks on Leon Draisaitl‘s third goal of the game, as he finished off a pretty passing play to complete the hat trick.

And here come the hats!

That’s also his fifth point of the game. Draisaitl has been great in the playoffs but amazing in this series with 13 points now versus the Ducks.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit: The Oilers have seven goals and Connor McDavid has yet to record a point in this game — at least for now, anyway.

Draisaitl opened the scoring, by whiffing on his breakaway shot, although the puck still slid through the legs of John Gibson. He gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead less than five minutes later.

Video: Cogliano bloodied after Gryba elbow

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Eventful start to Game 6, to say the least, between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers have chased goalie John Gibson from the Ducks net and expanded their lead to five goals — in the first period.

There were also some nervous moments for the Ducks when forward Andrew Cogliano was sent to the ice after being on the receiving end of an elbow from Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba.

Cogliano was dripping blood as he left the ice and went to the locker room.

Cogliano, who has never missed a regular season game in his NHL career that began in 2007, returned to the game. He returned … and took on Drake Caggiula in a brief scrap.