Man, what a wild ride that was.
Game 1 of the second round pitting the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers was a hotly-contested affair, just as advertised.
Things getting nasty at the end of Game 1 in Anaheim pic.twitter.com/sbamtEDbu9— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 27, 2017
Neither side was necessarily at their sharpest, making way for an exciting brand of hockey. The Ducks’ pile of mistakes in defeat became the main story, largely overshadowing some positives.
For your reading pleasure/convenience, here’s a neatly packaged list of both sides of the coin. Good things get listed as “do’s”, while mistakes get listed as “don’ts”. Enjoy.
Do: The Ryan Kesler-Connor McDavid Match-up
As expected, Randy Carlyle hard-matched the Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg line against Connor McDavid’s line all night long.
Kesler took one penalty early on against McDavid, but performed quite well throughout the rest of the game against the Edmonton star.
With McDavid on the ice, Kesler posted excellent numbers, to the tune of a 62.5 Corsi For percentage and 71.43 Scoring Chances For percentage. To boot, that line had some of the best expected goal numbers on the night, meaning they limited Edmonton’s shot quality. So far, so good when it comes to that assignment.
Don’t: Go On The Penalty Kill
Anaheim wasn’t anywhere near a disciplined team in Game 1, and they paid the price for it. They took five minor penalties before a late game skirmish, handing Edmonton opportunity after opportunity on the power play.
The Oilers cashed in, notching two nearly identical rebound goals with the man advantage. The Ducks’ penalty kill unit — largely built upon strong goaltending — just hasn’t been all that good in these playoffs, and that trend continued on Wednesday night.
Needless to say, but the Ducks need to stay out of the box if they want to have a shot at winning this series. Part of that will be finding a way to contain Edmonton’s speed through the neutral zone, which often left them in vulnerable flat-footed scenarios.
Do: Ride The Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson Pairing
Lindholm and Manson were largely split up in round one due to Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen’s injuries. With Fowler back in the lineup, Carlyle reunited his go-to shutdown pairing to some nice results.
Lindholm had himself a game, controlling just over 70 percent of the shot attempts and 75 percent of the scoring chances with Connor McDavid on the ice. He was sjust outstanding at even strength, tilting the ice in Anaheim’s favor with his crisp passing and excellent positioning.
Manson was equally up to task. His defensive game was stellar, and showed a willingness to skate the puck out of trouble. That match-up will continue to be key for Anaheim in slowing down McDavid.
Don’t: Between The Whistles
There’s been an statistical tinge to these do’s and don’ts so far, so let’s dive in to some eye-test/purely speculative stuff here.
Anaheim was able to get under the Calgary Flames’ skin during round one. No expense was spared between the whistles, as the Ducks took every opportunity for an extra whack or slash.
More nastiness between Anaheim and Edmonton pic.twitter.com/qAIR4a5hGp— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 27, 2017
You can argue whether that worked or not, but it felt more appropriate for that series. I’m not convinced that’s the case anymore. The Oilers do have some characters on their team — Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian come to mind — but it just doesn’t feel like the gamesmanship of round one will yield positive results in round two.
Do: Bring Lindholm-Manson To The Penalty Kill
Curiously, Lindholm and Manson were split up on the penalty kill. I’m not sure if this has been the case all season long, but it’s inarguable that Game 1 didn’t justify that course of action.
Manson was alongside Fowler, while Lindholm was slotted next to Montour. It’s just a baffling move, considering Fowler isn’t exactly a defensive stalwart while Lindholm is such a good shut-down guy.
The rationale from the coaching staff might be that the Ducks are better off with Lindholm and Manson separately to insulate guys like Fowler and Montour. If that is indeed the case, then it might be time to change course. Get your two best defensive defensemen out there together, and play them as much as possible. Seems easy enough, right?
Don’t: Juggle The Forward Lines
As a whole, Anaheim’s forward group did pretty well at even strength. The biggest move by the coaching staff was slotting Nate Thompson on the third line between Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry, which seemed to work out.
Thompson’s got the foot speed — and even some playmaking ability — to keep up with the two skilled wingers. Antoine Vermette just never seemed to really mesh with the two throughout the course of the regular season.
Vermette performed admirably in his new fourth line role. For the first time in what feels like ages, the Ducks’ fourth line wasn’t a possession black hole, with all three of Vermette, Chris Wagner, and Logan Shaw either breaking or finishing well above even.
All data from Corsica and Natural Stat Trick