2017 NHL Playoffs 2nd round: 3 reasons Oilers will beat Ducks in 7-game series
The Edmonton Oilers flew right past the San Jose Sharks in 6 games, stunning critics who thought the defending Western Conference champions would handle the upstart Edmonton squad.
Connor McDavid's steady influence at center was a big reason for this. However, the entire Oilers team deserves credit for simply out-skating the more experienced Sharks.
The next test for the Oilers gets much tougher. The Anaheim Ducks swept away the Calgary Flames like water off their backs. The Ducks look poised for a long playoff run, but first can they temper the storm brewing in Edmonton?
Here are three reasons the Ducks won't be able to stop the Oilers:
1. McDavid will outduel Kesler
If Ryan Kesler is supposed to track McDavid this entire series, then forget it. Kesler may be one of the better two-way and defensive-minded centers in the game, but nothing can stop the youth and speed McDavid brings each shift.
Kesler will have to do more than shut down and agitate the 20-year-old -- he will have to put up points, too. That's something the 32-year-old hasn't had to do in the playoffs yet. He's been able to play a defensive role and leave the goal scoring to his speedier teammates. He had just 6 shots on net in the Flames series. Counter-punching McDavid's line with offensive-zone pressure is the only way to beat him. If you allow him to attack, attack, attack, then he will find the back of the net.
The bottom line is McDavid has both the defensive and offensive edge in this duel. His four points in the Sharks series is nothing astounding, but he also registered 15 shots on goal. The levee will break eventually.
2. Cam Talbot is playing out of his mind
The 29-year-old Oilers goalie is proving everyone wrong, just like the rest of his team. Make no mistake: Talbot is the reason Edmonton is in the second round, even despite a rocky Game 3 against the Sharks in which he was relieved after allowing 5 goals on 24 shots.
The one-game slip didn't affect him. With a .927 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 6 games, the former New York Rangers backup is cementing himself as a top-level NHL goalie.
At the other end, 23-year-old John Gibson is no slouch. However, the Flames chased him in Game 3 with 4 goals on 16 shots. He responded with 36 saves in Game 4 and now has nearly a week's worth of rest. Still, the edge goes to Talbot right now. It will be up to the Ducks forwards to jump on Talbot early and nudge him off his game. They can try, at least.
3. Speed, speed, speed
The Flames may have speed, but they lacked the size and physicality needed to go up against a tough Ducks squad.
The Oilers, however, have both, and they know how to deploy it. If McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl can win races while Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon win the physical battles, then the Anaheim Ducks are in trouble.
Anaheim has always been a tough team physically, but a track race is the last thing they want to start with the Oilers. If the Ducks can't win the physical battles, then they risk watching Edmonton's speedy snipers skate circles around them. Anaheim needs to focus on limiting the odd-man rushes and keeping the pressure on the Oilers defense. As stated, Kesler's line will be a big factor in any success for the Ducks.
This is the second time these teams ever have met in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the first being back in 2006 when the Oilers topped the Ducks in five games in the conference finals.
Game 1 is Wednesday.
Here's the full series schedule:
- GAME 1: Wednesday, April 26, 10:30 p.m.: Oilers @ Ducks | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
- GAME 2: Friday, April 28, 10:30 p.m.: Oilers @ Ducks | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
- GAME 3: Sunday, April 30, 7 p.m.: Ducks @ Oilers | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
- GAME 4: Wednesday, May 3, 10 p.m.: Ducks @ Oilers | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
- GAME 5: *Friday, May 5, TBD: Oilers @ Ducks | TBD
- GAME 6: *Sunday, May 7, TBD: Ducks @ Oilers | TBD
- GAME 7: *Wednesday, May 10, TBD: Oilers @ Ducks | TBD
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