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2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Pacific Division 2nd Round

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Pacific Division 2nd Round Dinur/via Flickr

Anaheim, Edmonton to square off for chance to reach conference final

NHL

We are about two weeks into the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs and it’s already been a wild ride. Yesterday, the last two first round match ups were decided, meaning the second round series are all set. The second round will begin on Wednesday night, with both Western Conferences series getting underway. Today, I’ll be giving you a preview of the Pacific Division second round series.

ANAHEIM DUCKS vs EDMONTON OILERS

ANAHIEM DUCKS

The Pacific Division-winning Anaheim Ducks dispatched the Calgary Flames in four games in the first round. However, it was not an easy series.

The Ducks had to come from behind in games 1 and 3 to win those. Their Game 3 victory came after overcoming a three-goal deficit, the first time the franchise has done that in the playoffs. All four games were basically one-goal games (Anaheim scored their third goal in Game 4 on an empty net).

They also had to overcome a red-hot Calgary power-play. The Flames went 6-for-16 on the man advantage in the series, scoring three of them in Game 3.

What helped the Ducks in that series was the depth of their lineup. Anaheim had 13 players collect at least one point against Calgary. They scored 14 goals in the series, coming from eight different players. Captain Ryan Getzlaf led the offensive attack for the Ducks.

Getzlaf tallied a team-high three goals and five points in the series. Defenseman Shea Theodore and forward Rickard Rakell also had five points in the team’s first round match-up.

That balanced attack has Anaheim second in goals per game during the playoffs so far, with an average of 3.5 goals per game. Their goaltending was pretty solid in the series, as well.

Starter John Gibson went 3-0 with a 2.60 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in the four games he started. The only game Gibson did not finish was Game 3, where he was pulled for Jonathan Bernier.

Bernier did good in his relief appearance, stopping all 16 shots he faced to give his team the chance to mount the comeback. Apart from that game, Gibson was stellar during the series. The 23-year-old allowed no more than two goals in the three games he finished.

Overall, Anaheim gave up nine goals in the opening series. They did a good job containing the Flames’ offensive threats 5-on-5 as Calgary scored only two goals in entire series at even strength.

EDMONTON OILERS

The Edmonton Oilers made it back to the postseason for the first time since 2006 this spring and made a statement in the first round.

The Oilers knocked off the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks in six games. They did it with a mix of timely, balanced scoring and some good defensive play when they needed it.

Edmonton had 14 players collect at least one point against the Sharks. Like the Ducks, the Oilers was led offensively by their captain, Connor McDavid.

McDavid had team-high four points in the series. He was also tied with two other players for the team lead in goals with two.

Despite advancing, the Oilers did have a bit of trouble generating offense throughout the series,though.

They averaged only 28.2 shots per game and scored just 12 goals in the six games, the second-fewest of the teams that advanced to the second round. Their 2.00 goals per game average was the lowest, however, of the teams that advanced.

Their goaltending, though, made up for some of that lack of offensive production.

Cam Talbot was stellar between the pipes for Edmonton. He went 4-2 with a 2.03 GAA, .927 SV%, and two shutouts, those coming in back-to-back games.

If you look at the stats, you’ll see the Sharks actually outscored the Oilers 14-12 in the series. You’ll also see the 7-0 beatdown San Jose handed Edmonton in Game 4. However, if you take that game out, you’ll see the Oilers did a pretty good job defensively in the series.

Edmonton allowed only seven goals in the other five games, giving up no more than three goals in those games. They also limited the Sharks’ chances, allowing only 28.8 shots per game, fourth-best in the playoffs according to the NHL’s media site.

SERIES PREDICTION

These two teams were the top two teams in the Pacific Division, and it only seems fair they are the ones facing off to represent the division in the Western Conference Final. They can both play a similar game and, on paper, are close to even. The difference in this series, I believe, will be home ice.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle loves to get match ups in his favor, especially at home. That will be a key for Anaheim if they want to slow down McDavid and his line. Expect to see a lot of Ryan Kesler and his line up against McDavid in Anaheim and whenever possible in Edmonton.

The Oilers will need to generate more offense if they want to reach the Conference Final. They’ll also need to slow down a Ducks attack that has the second-most goals per game so far this postseason.

I know in my preview of the Edmonton-San Jose series I said experience would make the difference for the Sharks. I did not take into account, however, their lackluster play going into the playoffs. In this series, the Oilers are not playing a slumping team.

Anaheim has been one of the hottest teams since March. They’ve only last two games in regulation in the last two months and have won eight in a row going back to the end of the season. In fact, the last game they did not win was in overtime against these Oilers.

Again, though, home ice will determine this series. That game the Ducks lost in OT to Edmonton was in Edmonton. Including the regular season, Anaheim is 31-8-4 at Honda Center. They will have up to four home games in this series.

Despite losing Game 1 at home, it surely helped a young Oilers team to start the playoffs at home. Most young teams thrive when they get home ice in a playoff series. However, that won’t be the case against the Ducks.

This will be a back-and-forth series and one that will help Edmonton and their young stars grow. However, Anaheim will have the match-ups in their favor in most of the games. They should also be getting healthy on the back end.

Defenseman Cam Fowler is practicing with the team already after missing the first round. Sami Vatanen, another blueliner, only played one game in that opening series, but may be ready when Game 1 comes around on Wednesday. Despite not having two of their top defensemen, the Ducks swept the Flames. Getting both of those players back will only make Anaheim back.

This series, I believe, won’t end in a sweep, but will end with the Ducks reaching the Conference Final for the second time in three years. And they’ll do it by exorcising a recent playoff demon: Game 7.

PREDICTION: Ducks in 7