By: Cory Vest
After 92 games, a single one decides the fate of their seasons. The Ducks of Anaheim will take on the Edmonton Oilers, in a do-or-die game seven come Wednesday, May 10th. With the series tied at three games apiece, both teams have fought hard to advance, where they’ll take on the waiting Nashville Predators.
The series has been filled with streaks ad sprees. Edmonton reeled off two straight victories in Anaheim only to drop two home games of their own. The Ducks managed to sneak out a third straight win after a historic game 5 comeback. Trailing 3-0 with 3:15 left in the third period, the Ducks stormed back for a double overtime win. The Oilers snapped their three-game skid with a vicious dish of revenge. A 7-1 thumping of the Ducklings set the stage for a much anticipated, elimination game.
In the six games that have been played, each team has scored two unanswered goals 4 times, three unanswered goals 7 times, four unanswered once, and an unheard of six unanswered even occurred at one point.
The Oilers have consistently gotten the better of the Ducks early on. Edmonton has taken a lead in four of the six games, leaving the Ducks with first dibs on net only twice. Unfortunately for the Oilers, they seem to have a leak they can’t seem to patch up as the lead has slipped away from them in four of those five games; leading to three heartbreaks.
The Ducks are no strangers to the stage set before them. This script has been played out the same way in the past four years. In all four of those years, the Ducks have faced the same bitter ending. The Ducks led every series heading into game 6, but dropped the final two games of those series; eliminating them from the playoffs. Despite playing on their home ice in the last four game sevens, the Ducks, and their fans, have left Honda Center with heads hanging and a sour taste of defeat in their mouths.
We shall see if experience, even if it is experience in the form of defeat, trumps youth. The Oilers boast a line-up that has 11 players competing in their first postseason ever. Speaking of the number 11, it has been 11 years since the Edmonton franchise has participated in a game 7.
Overall, stats for the series for the series favor the Ducks. The Ducks have outshot the Oilers, 234 to 195. The Ducks have also outhit the Oilers 245 to 187. Edmonton has given the puck away a total of 86 times, while the Ducks have relinquished possession 80 times throughout the series. Anaheim has taken the puck away from the Oilers 60 times, while Edmonton has committed 54 thefts. In the faceoff circle, the Ducks have won 221 times while the Oilers have 194 faceoff wins.
Both teams have stood up against adversity. Both teams have shown they are capable of taking over a game, flipping a switch, and storming toward victory. Each goaltender has had their extreme high points and their downright low points. They’ve all but stood on their heads to make incredible saves, while also falling on their heads, giving up goals in flurries. Who comes out as victors of game 7, and the series, will be extremely difficult to determine.
The Ducks will need continued excellence from their captain, Ryan Getzlaf. The sexy play of Getzy, has led to 15 playoff points in the 10 games he’s played. The 15 points come by way of 8 goals and 7 assists. In the Edmonton series alone, Getzlaf has put home 4 goals, while assisting on another 5. A couple of beneficiaries of Getzlaf’s generosity, have been Jakob Silfverberg, and Rickard Rakell. Silfverberg has netted 5 goals in the series, with Rakell tallying 4 of his own. Although Ryan Kesler has found pay dirt only once, he has had 4 helpers in the series, Cam Fowler has 4 as well.
If the Ducks can start strong and play the type of hockey they did during the regular season, then capturing the win is not far-fetched. A greater contribution from Corey Perry, will do wonders for the Ducks as well. It is yet to be seen if Patrick Eaves will be ready Wednesday, after suffering a lower body injury that has held him out of three straight games. Eaves had 2 goals and 2 assists in 7 postseason games. Gibson needs to stand tall in the crease, while the defense needs to get in front of more shots and close down passing lanes. Finally, killing the penalty could prove to be the difference maker, as the Ducks have allowed 7 power play goals in a 6-game span, going 18-25. The Ducks have only capitalized on two power play chances themselves.
Despite their horrific history in game 7’s at home, the Ducks will prevail. As the Oilers made a statement in Game 6, the Ducks will return the favor in game 7. A back and forth battle will test each team, but the Ducks will display their resilience and never say die mentality in order to advance to the Western Conference Finals.