It’s almost like the Anaheim Ducks thought this was going to be easy after the Nashville Predators found themselves without their top two centermen in Ryan Johansen (thigh injury) and Mike Fisher (undisclosed injury). Unfortunately, they failed to capitalize on those gaping absences.
Many thought the injuries would be the downfall of the Preds (myself included), but Nashville put up a gritty performance as a tribute to their fallen mates, proving everyone wrong and earning their way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Everything seemed to fall into place for the Preds as Colton Sissons recorded a hat trick and Pekka Rinne was again an assassin bent on denying everything the Ducks could throw his way. A slew of young talent stepped up in a big way led by 22-year-old Filip Forsberg who had a point in all six games.
Of course, the Ducks were not without injuries. In this series, Rickard Rakell, and John Gibson, went down but they still had the services of Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, and Ryan Getzlaf. Patrick Eaves was a casualty in a previous round as well.
Corey Perry was the only one of the trio to score two goals (one tipped by Nashville’s P.K. Subban). While Getzlaf did add four assists, Kesler was blanked through the entire series.
In fairness, Kesler generally gets the toughest defensive assignment; however, that can’t be viewed as an excuse, as this is almost always the case for the Ducks resident agitator.
For his part, Getzlaf came into this series as the hottest player throughout the postseason, with eight goals and seven assists. However, he turned into Captain Cold when the curtain went up on this series.
Playoff Scoring Leaders:@malkin71_ - 23
Crosby - 19
Getzlaf - 18@PKessel81 -18@jakenbake20 - 16
— NHL (@NHL) May 22, 2020
Considering how dominant the Ducks pivots had been throughout the postseason, it was reasonable to think that the loss of Johansen and Fisher would be exploited to the fullest. In fact, one could argue that Getzlaf and Kesler should have earned a considerable amount of freedom in their absence enabling them to kick start their stagnant offensive efforts.
One assist from Getzlaf is more like jump starting a ride-on lawn mower, when the Ducks faithful were hoping for something more along the lines of a John Deere tractor from the pair.
Dumb Dialogue and Dirty Downfall
While many will focus on Getzlaf’s less than stellar stat sheet in this series, others will focus on his homophobic slur towards an official. Clearly, the Ducks were frustrated, but there is no excuse for any player (or any human being for that matter) to use such hateful language, especially the captain.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the tone deaf NHL fined Getzlaf $10,000 which is on par with the average person using their piggy bank to pay for a prime lake front property.
Just last season, Andrew Shaw (then with the Chicago Blackhawks) had a similar outburst and received a one-game suspension. Hmm, this sounds familiar…
When you’re a star; they let you do it.
League double-standard re: Getzlaf continues. Last year Andrew Shaw was suspended 1 playoff game for exactly the same offence. https://t.co/boKSpgYgKN
— Dan Tencer (@dantencer) May 20, 2020
Once again, the league failed to send a message.
To make matters worse, the Ducks went out in a flurry of fists as they spent the final seconds of the game (and series) taking out their frustrations on a team that earned their victory. The Preds came onto the ice with no great advantage over the Ducks, they simply played their game and capitalized on the chances they were given, no matter how limited those chances were.
The Ducks had two five minute majors and game misconducts (a boarding call and a roughing call). The second with just seconds remaining because nothing screams sportsmanship more effectively than a cheap shot as your season expires.
While the Preds went off in celebration, the Ducks went off like a bunch of toddlers breaking sticks and throwing tantrums in the tunnel. Apparently, no one told the Ducks you have to earn the win.
For much of Game 6, the Ducks looked like the better team, but they failed to capitalize on a multitude of opportunities, especially on the power play. They had four chances and came up with nothing. In the postseason, their power play cashed in just seven times on fifty opportunities.
For a team that was the second most penalized during the regular season (934 PIM) and the most penalized in the postseason (228 PIM), one would think they would have mastered the art of the penalty kill. Sadly, that was not the case.
The Ducks found themselves shorthanded 61 times in the playoffs and gave up 15 goals. That’s simply not good enough.
The #Ducks have not scored on the powerplay since Game 2 against the Oilers, going 0-for-21 in the past 6 games.https://t.co/n46QYQJZ4I pic.twitter.com/3SChLQ78VG
— OddsShark (@OddsShark) May 14, 2020
Duck, Duck, Dead in the Water
While it was apparent that the Ducks came with a better team effort in the final two games of the series, they simply didn’t look like a team that came in with thoughts of winning to send the series back to their ice for a Game 7 after giving up an early goal. They battled, but with each goal the defeat began to settle in, and the Ducks started pulling their own feathers out.
In fact, they folded so hard in the final minutes of Game 6 that The Gap might look to hire them over the summer. Perhaps they just didn’t want to give critics the opportunity to dissect their long history of failure in Game 7’s, as this was yet another season where the Ducks finished on top of their division only to come up short in the postseason.
What makes matters worse is that the Ducks outshot the Preds 74-47 in the last two games. The Game 6 discrepancy was an absurd 41-18 thrashing, yet the Preds won the game 6-3 (two empty net). That is about as demoralizing as it can get.
Red Hot Rinne
The Ducks succeeded when they crashed the net, and they were the only team that Nashville had faced to this point that challenged Pekka Rinne. Part of the reason the Ducks are flying south for the summer is because they failed to do it consistently enough. Rinne was red-hot and followed pucks as if they had a homing beacon, so limiting his sight line was imperative. Not just sometimes, every time! At least it should have been if they Ducks had plans on winning this series.
Rinne will look to continue his dominance in the crease for one more series, and if he is successful, it may not matter who they face in the Final.
At the end of the day, the Ducks may have looked like the better team last night, but the reality is that they were not. Effort equates to nothing when the final score is 6-3 and you’re on the wrong side. There is no blue ribbon for participation, there is only a somber locker room clean out, followed by a summer of swallowing back the bitter pill that Nashville just dispensed.
The Preds are for real, and there’s a very good chance this season will end with a Stanley Cup in the Music City.
Credit to Rinne and his Preds, because they took an impossible situation and just found a way. Great teams always do.
The Ducks were plucked by Colonel Mustard with a goalie paddle in the Bridgestone Arena.
Who wants to go to the airport with me and welcome back the Ducks? pic.twitter.com/b54tubUqlN
— The Mouth (@TheMouthLAKings) May 23, 2020