Ryan Kesler and Connor McDavid. Image by: Getty Images
The Ducks are rolling, and getting healthy, and the Oilers are full of confidence. Will the Ryan Kesler-Connor McDavid matchup be the difference?
The Oilers win if...
In the first-round win over San Jose, we saw good Connor McDavid, but not great Connor McDavid. But make no mistake: great McDavid is never far away and his impact could be felt immediately if he can win the battle against Ryan Kesler. Perhaps the best sign for Edmonton in the opening round was the fact that the Oilers found heroes in unlikely places. From Zack Kassian to David Desharnais, the offense was balanced and that’s a good sign for a team wading into post-season waters for the first time in more than a decade.
In net, Cam Talbot is light years ahead of Calgary’s netminders and already has two shutouts in the post-season. He could easily steal a game or two for the Oilers if necessary.
In terms of confidence, the Oilers fared very well against Anaheim in the regular season, taking three out of five games. Like San Jose, the Ducks are a heavy team with a lot of experience, but Edmonton managed to take out the Sharks without much issue, so they can basically follow the same game plan here.
The Ducks win if...
Anaheim has been rolling for weeks now, dating back to the regular season. The Calgary Flames were a mere speedbump in the first round and though the Oilers present a more difficult challenge, the Ducks have quite a bit of firepower. If Ryan Getzlaf can continue to play some of the best hockey of his career, the Oilers are stuck, because they don’t have an answer for him in their lineup. The captain has 12 points in his past 10 contests, dating back to a late March lower body injury that caused him to miss a game. Against Edmonton this season, Getzlaf had seven points in five outings.
And unlike Edmonton’s previous opponent in San Jose, the Ducks are getting healthier. A banged-up blueline could see the Game 1 return of key components Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm; each of whom missed all or parts of the first-round victory over Calgary due to injuries. That’s a huge dose of skill and puckmoving ability injected into a lineup that features a nice cadre of scorers up front and, once again, provides match-up problems for the Oilers.
Edmonton will also have to contend with one of the best shutdown lines in the game; the trio of Andrew Cogliano, Jakob Silfverberg and Selke finalist Ryan Kesler. You can bet McDavid will see a lot of Kesler in this series.
Oilers: Oscar Klefbom is finally getting the props he deserves around the hockey world and Edmonton is the beneficiary. The mobile, two-way defenseman was a possession monster for the Oilers in the first round and has a history of playing well in pressure situations, dating back to the world juniors with Sweden. Look for him to continue his stellar play against the Ducks.
Ducks: Corey Perry is playing on the Ducks’ third line, spreading out a dangerous attack. He heated up as the series against the Flames went on, notching three points in the final two victories. If he can continue such contributions against Edmonton, it will force the Oilers to pick their poison in the match-up game – something that is already working against them.
There’s a really under the radar the matchup here between unheralded Swedish D-men, but it might be one that comes into the spotlight by the end of the series. Hampus Lindholm and Oscar Klefbom might be two of the best D-men you rarely hear about thanks to their relative newness to the league and their modest point totals. Lindholm is a beast when it comes to driving play and he’s been one of the league’s best defensemen in that regard over the past two seasons. Klefbom is very good there as well, though not quite as strong. He makes up for it with better production though and he became much more noticeable this season once he got added to the Oilers top power play. What’s really underrated about Klefbom is his ability to stay out of the box: he has just 16 penalty minutes in 189 career games. That’s incredible for a defenseman. He was arguably one of the best Oilers in Round 1. These two don’t seem like typical number one defensemen, but their numbers suggest that’s exactly what they are. Lindholm has the edge when these two have faced head-to-head, and it’ll be interesting to see if that continues here. They’ll both be key cogs in this series. (Dom Luszczyszyn)
DUCKS in six games.
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