This was the total opposite of game one. Through two periods, the Ducks were taking play to the Stars big time, controlling the game. (In pizza terms, they came out ready to eat 60-ish percent of the pizza.) After going up by a goal, the Ducks sat back just as hard. The Stars opened up a very impressive display in the third.
Before I drop in the charts and discuss a couple things, I want to give you guys another link. This is a fairly new offering but is just fun as hell to get lost in, so enjoy all of these beautiful matchup stats.
All the shot attempts, all the time:
Ok, here is the play at even strength:
That third period is pretty embarrassing. Fortunately, the sound I heard from the team following the game acknowledges that they know it was a very poor way to hold onto the lead in this one. Several players mentioned the slow start through five or so minutes and the dead third, which means the coach informed them, which also means it wasn't scripted.
I'm still away on vacation, so the full toolset I normally use is pretty limited right now. But here's my take from Mexico. Our best possessions guys were Jacob Silfverberg, Saku Koivu, and Andrew Cogliano, who were matched up against Valeri Nichushkin most of the time. They were there to shut down secondary scoring and succeeded in driving play against, so that's very good.
Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy were used in a pretty dedicated role as shutting down the Stars big guns: Tyler Seguin, Alex Chiasson and Jamie Benn. Boudreau isn't really known as a matching coach, but he was hard matching Fowler to Benn from what I was seeing. The minutes these guys saw of each other confirms the coach was aiming for it as often as possible. This has also been the case through both games, so on home ice Fowler is going to be the Benn matchup, it's safe to say.
Early on, Fowler and Lovejoy broke more or less even against the Stars top guys (which is a huge win in my eyes). By the end of the third though, they were feeling the flatline the team around them was helping create. Neither Fowler nor Lovejoy are traditional shutdown defensemen in that they aren't at their best when the game becomes a slog to protect the lead. They excel in moving the puck, not defending the cycle. The third period was basically the worst kind of game for them, so I feel pretty lucky the team held on to the lead they did.
The Benn line saw a lot of Ryan Getzlaf's line in this one, and again: through two periods, the Ducks killed them. In the third, things got bogged down bad except for Corey Perry, who more or less kept being the puck possession monster I suspect he really is. (While Getzlaf gets a lot of credit as the creativity of the team, all that, I think Perry is the guy actually driving the bus there. In studying chances, entries, and basic possession metrics, Perry looks like the guy who creates the most consistently positive on the team. He's worth every penny of his deal.)
I thought Cogliano and Silfverberg were extraordinarily good in game two. They were, aside from the obvious top line guys (who were super), the best forwards Anaheim iced. It wasn't just the positive possession mentioned earlier, as that's really a side effect to what they were doing well. Both players were effective on the forecheck, clean on their transitions, and pests along the wall in the defensive zone.
One last thing: the Ducks have upped their possession game quite a bit in these last two games. While they lost the close situation battle in game one, they won the overall possession game. In the second tilt, they beat the tar out of the Stars in close but lost the overall possession game. (Losing the game when leading is much different than losing the game when trailing though.) The real playoff Ducks are somewhere in the middle of the last two games.
This Ducks-Stars series is basically a lot more evenly matched than I thought it would be. The Ducks have gotten what I'll call the "home ice breaks" to start things, so if the Stars catch any breaks on their home ice, we could easily see an even series heading back to Anaheim. Hopefully the Ducks steal a game in Dallas and really put the pressure on the Stars.