After last night’s debacle of officiating and coaching tactics that lead to my Washington Capitals blowing another G.O.L.D.E.N. opportunity against Pittsburgh, I tried to begrudgingly watch the Ducks-Oilers game because I guess it’s important to be professional. Surely enough, I caught the game right when the officials blew a goaltender interference call by, you guessed it, Corey Perry. Hockey just wants to totally poke and prod my soul for all of eternity, apparently. Before that goal, it was 21-17 Oilers in unadjusted shot attempts at even strength. The rest of the game, it was 27-38 to Edmonton’s disadvantage.
Even if you argue that the young Oilers need to find a way to stay professional and continue to play their game when the referees make the wrong decision, that is absolutely discrediting how the other team is feeling after such a controversial moment. From Anaheim’s point of view, even if that goal did not count, you are now in the mindset that Cam Talbot and his defense can be vulnerable and more goals should be coming no matter what. Surely enough, that is what happened the rest of the game.
The rest of Anaheim’s goals were simply taking advantage of Edmonton’s defense that just couldn’t wait to cough up the puck any chance they had while pinned deep in their own zone. They were no match for Ryan Getzlaf, who ended with two goals on the night and delivered the game winning primary assist. Along with that, after having such a brilliant first period in gaining entries into the offensive zone, Connor McDavid became invisible. In fact, his duel with Ryan Kesler is becoming more one-sided as the series has gone along.
While McDavid does have three points in this four game match-up, Kesler has now been on the ice against him for 34 even strength minutes and has seen more on-ice shot attempts go in Anaheim’s favor 49-34. Even in this particular game, you could have argued that McDavid is starting the pass the puck a little too much as many of them were on two-on-one situations and instead of shooting, he tried to saucer it over the lone defender at the last minute time and again. Either way, this is not a secret that this battle between Edmonton’s top line and Anaheim’s second line of death is determining this series and the Ducks are putting the absolute smack down on them so far.
The real hidden gem on that unit has been Jakub Silfverberg. The 26-year old was a part of the Bobby Ryan trade and his development into a two-way forward has been quite extraordinary since coming from Ottawa. Now he has been among the leading goal scorers in this postseason with seven, including last night’s overtime winner.
After exploiting Anaheim’s weaknesses in game one, Edmonton now sees themselves lose their massive advantage of winning their first two games on the road by losing their two home games as well. Usually, home ice advantage is so critical for any NHL team, but this series seams to completely ignore that. The Oilers will have to find a way to turn things up a notch with its secondary scoring, just like they did against San Jose in round one. Can the Milan Lucic-led second line find a way to create an advantage on its own against the Ryan Getzlaf-led top line of Anaheim’s to cancel out anything Ryan Kesler is delivering? Can Oskar Klefbom and Adam Larsson get back to the good habits they were developing in round one?
Otherwise, Anaheim will continue to build on their 11.6-7.4 adjusted expected goals advantage at even strength according to corsica.hockey; a margin that is not dissimilar to the 13-7 advantage they have in actual goals at five-on-five. Edmonton has scored four power play goals to Anaheim’s two, but all but Lucic’s tally last night came in the first two games of the series. Not only do they need to stay consistent in generating offense from there, but the Oilers have to stop eliminating advantages by being undisciplined themselves. As a result, Anaheim has now been able to tie the power play opportunities tally at 15 in these four game.
Edmonton can still win this series, but they will have to break the dam that Anaheim has created in stifling their flow of play at even strength. Otherwise, the Ducks will see themselves perform the way they did against Calgary and make it to their second conference finals appearance in three years.