Before indulging in a little deep-sea fishing for Sharks, there was a lot of questions surrounding the playoff-starved Edmonton Oilers. I even admit to being somewhat doubtful as to whether or not they could actually pull off a series win after such a long time of being out of the picture; but like a “spider changing colour to blend into it’s environment,” as Tobey Maguire said during his Spider-man days, the Oilers proved their legitimacy by adapting to the powerful San Jose Sharks. A game plan of similar fashion is in need again, this time against the potent Anaheim Ducks.
The second round of playoffs will be different for the Oilers. They are playing a bigger, stronger and much harder team. The Sharks were no pushovers by any stretch; but they were an exhausted, veteran team running out of juice and they simply could not deal with the relentless speed and youth of Edmonton. The Ducks have a healthy balance of speed, skill, size, experience and youth.
A key factor in the series will be whether or not the Oilers can counter Anaheim’s aggressive offensive attacks and transition with effective offence of their own.
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Against the Sharks, there were times where the Oilers sat back either to protect a lead or to weather a storm of offensive pressure as a result of the shifting momentum. The Ducks will be difficult to contain due to their size and aggressive style head coach Randy Carlyle has them playing.
The Ducks have a very mobile, impactful defence. Maybe more so than the Oilers. Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler represent arguably the best group of young defensemen in the game today. The Ducks also have a red hot and emerging rookie defender in Shea Theodore, who has 5 points in 4 playoff games.
Each of these players move the puck smoothly with great speed and incredible passing ability that plays a vital role in the execution of the Ducks offensive attacks.
The speed of the Oilers and their hard forechecking system will play a pivotal role in shutting down the Ducks offence. They have to be able to neutralize the Ducks before they cross the blue line. Those stingy Nashville Predators clearly got something right against Chicago. Thank the New Jersey Devils for spawning the birth of boredom.
Maybe thats what the Oilers need to do. They are always the team with the fancy flash, dash and skill. Would it hurt to be less exciting for once?
Jam up the middle and beat the Ducks defenders with speed on the outside. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would flourish from that. When the Ducks try to do the same, send Milan Lucic or Zack Kassian out there to smear them against the boards. Wear the Ducks down before the Ducks wear down the Oilers. It seems to work more often than not in todays NHL.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you win as long as the job gets done and thats what we saw against San Jose. The Oilers wore down the Sharks.
You can never talk about the Ducks without mentioning Captain Ryan Getzlaf and pesky Corey Perry. Those two are the heart-beat of that franchise and will need to be shut down early if the Oilers are to win this series.
23 year old forward Rickard Rakell had a career high 33 goals this year and already has 5 points in 4 playoff games so far. He will be another player for the Oilers to keep a close eye on.
Somehow, the Oilers must find a way to put the puck in the net. The Ducks have a very strong tandem of John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier who are both coming off solid regular seasons and successful performances in the first round of playoffs.
Perhaps the defining factor of the series will be how much of an impact Ryan Kesler makes on the Oilers, particularly against Connor McDavid. It is essential for Edmonton to create room on the ice for their captain.
I feel that San Jose did an incredible job of shutting down McDavid in round 1. Kesler is the best in the league at shutting down the top players, so he will be a handful. Maybe throwing Lucic or Kassian on McDavid’s wing for the start of round 2 could make a difference against the Ducks.
Basically, the Oilers will have to counter Anaheim’s style with that of physicality, speed and skill. Adapting to all situations is essential. If the Ducks push, the Oilers must push back harder.
Penalties will result in the Oilers undoing in the series. The Ducks have the third best power play in playoffs right now, which sits at 23.1%. It is a certainty that harsh lessons will be taught if Anaheim is spoiled with man advantages all series long.
Now, another aquatic mammal from California prepares for yet another hunting season to withstand. A Duck nervously treads water in the pond of Anaheim as it awaits the arrival of CEO Elmer Fudd and his flourishing oil company. He comes to ram down the front doors of Honda Center for the purpose of clearing out the natural ecosystem in Anaheim in order to make room for the foundation of a new oil sand. Let the series begin.