It's been a rough start to this playoff series for the Ducks. This team hasn't looked at all like the team that won 15 of its last 20. Defensive zone turnovers, an inability to carry play for long stretches and excessive amounts of penalties have highlighted the Anaheim efforts.
They are being outworked in the corners and outmuscled almost everywhere. The Predators are supposed to be short on offensive depth, but keep finding ways to hang some big numbers on the Ducks. Arthur, there are only two ways to fix this: get tighter on D, or find a way to produce more offense. Which do you think the Ducks should do?
I'd say get tighter defensively and just let that feed the offensive opportunities.
Most coaches say the one thing you can't ask a kid to do is score more goals. I tend to agree with that. Going into this series, I said that Selanne and Perry would have to stay hot and hope it ignited the rest of the team. I stand by that. The rest of the team isn't hot yet, so they can't get too cute out there; they've got to just do their best to take the highest percentage shots they can.
Then, on defense, I think they have to force the Predators into the lowest percentage shots possible. Just straightforward, simplified hockey on both ends. If this Predators team really is the same team that came in 21st in goals per game in the regular season, then a tighter defense should pay dividends.
Normally, I'd agree that defense is the right place to start, but I also think that the postseason is the time where teams learn to mask their weaknesses and succeed. The Preds seem to have the Ducks' number, but probably can't maintain this pace permanently. If the Ducks increase their own offensive output, and spend more time in the Nashville zone, their errors won't be as costly.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but this might be one of those instances where the best defense is a good offense. The opposition can't score if they aren't in your zone. The Ducks need to tighten up their offensive zone play, and force the Preds to work for the puck.
It's time to bring Sexton into the lineup. Nashville's quick forecheck and counter attacking style needs speed to counter it. Sexton would provide a check against Nashville, by forcing them to respect his speed. He can force the defense back and let the trailers fill the gaps.
Even if people think Sexton didn't finish enough of his opportunities, no defense is going to give him enough tries to get one right. Even if the Predators are using more offense and not completely relying on their defensive game, they still rely on that responsible style of play to gain control of the game and it's a great source of their confidence. Until the Ducks find a way to seriously disrupt that defensive confidence, they won't be able to gain control of this series. That means, they're going to have to improve their offensive execution.