One Down, Three to Go
April 20, 2017, 10:40 AM ET [14 Comments]
Anaheim Ducks Blogger • RSS • Archive • CONTACT
Last night's 3-1 win over Calgary has propelled the Ducks into the Western Conference Semifinals against either Edmonton or San Jose. Six months ago, around Thanksgiving, Anaheim was a borderline playoff team and boy have things changed.
While a series sweep was unexpected, it is certainly not unwelcome. The Edmonton-San Jose winner won't be determined until Saturday at the earliest, or Monday. It gives the Ducks approximately five to seven days to heal up from a physical opening round. Even at four games, a series like the one they just had takes a toll on the body.
Bottleneck on the Blue Line
Defensemen Sami Vatanen and perhaps even Cam Fowler, who both missed the opening round, could be ready to return from their respective injuries by next week. Both players would be welcome additions to the lineup, but it would create a quandary most teams would love to have, seven quality defensemen for six slots. Replacing Korbinian Holzer is necessary, but...
Who takes a seat when both men are good to go? There is zero chance Hampus Lindholm sits. Fowler was the Ducks best defenseman all season. Kevin Bieksa just played one of the best playoff series of his career. Josh Manson's physicality is a must. That leaves Vatanen, Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour. The latter two have earned the right to play and Vatanen, when healthy can be an offensive weapon. Maybe coach Randy Carlyle uses a rotation or alternate pairings utilizing a 3A/3B scenario. Any way you slice it, the Ducks could be in an enviable situation.
Meanwhile, Down on the Farm
AHL Pacific Division runners up and Ducks affiliate, the San Diego Gulls begin a best of five opening round Calder Cup series against the Ontario Reign. It will be a Freeway Faceoff-ish series, as Ontario is the Kings AHL affiliate. The Valley View Casino Center will be rocking Friday night.
Anaheim's ECHL team, the Utah Grizzlies, also made the playoffs. Currently, they trail Allen, TX (San Jose) 2-1 in their best of seven opening round series. Grizzlies Forward Jon Puskar leads all player in scoring with four points in three games. Grizzlies goalie Kevin Boyle has started every game thus far. He is 1-2, with a 2.71 GAA and .914 SV%. Utah will host game four on Friday night.
Which ever team wins the other WCQF series, Edmonton or San Jose, will present the Ducks with an interesting challenge. Like Calgary, the Oilers are a young explosive team. The main differences are that Cam Talbot is a much better goalie than the Ducks have faced in the post season so far. Connor McDavid won this years scoring title. He is the probably the best forward in the Western Conference and within a few years maybe the best in the entire NHL. Additionally, if Calgary's fans were fired up for round one, it will pale in comparison to the electricity generated at Rogers Place should the Oilers advance.
The Ducks already have a contentious relationship with San Jose. Regular season games are famous for their hard hits and physical play. Even in this years preseason, there were three fights in two games. It will all get ratcheted up a notch if these teams meet in the next round. An Anaheim – San Jose series will not be for the faint of heart.
On the Way