Anaheim was supposed to have a Connor McDavid problem in the second round. Instead, it’s Edmonton who’s having a tough time slowing down Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.
In a span of little more than 10 seconds, Ryan Getzlaf made three plays that changed the Anaheim Ducks’ second round series against the Edmonton Oilers. The first was a shot block, as he stopped Adam Larsson’s blast before it could even threaten to become the overtime-winning goal. The second play saw Getzlaf seal off the boards, stuffing a clearing attempt by Larsson along the right wing wall back in the Edmonton zone. The third was a setup — picture perfect, on a platter and right in the wheelhouse — that Jakob Silfverberg teed off on. It found twine. Game over, Ducks win, series tied.
The history books will always show that it was Silfverberg who scored the winner, who tied the series and helped the Ducks claw all the way back after dropping the first two games at home. And it was Silfverberg who was inevitably mobbed by his teammates, patted on the head and celebrated for the blast that eluded Oilers netminder Cam Talbot. But the play wouldn’t have happened without Getzlaf. It was he who made the block, he who shut down any zone exit by the Oilers and he who found Silfverberg in space.
And we shouldn’t have expected anything less with the way the Ducks captain has continued to pick apart opponents through Anaheim’s first eight playoff games.
The truth is Getzlaf probably didn’t get the press he deserved as the post-season was rolling around. Much of the talk in the final months of the season was about the wild-card race in the Eastern Conference, who would sneak in out West and some talk about the changes that would have to come for the teams that missed out. And when the post-season was talked about, focus in the Western Conference was on the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild and Edmonton’s return to the playoffs, guided by captain and Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid. But it’s Getzlaf, not McDavid, not the Blackhawks and not the Wild, who is quickly becoming the primary talking point out West. With good reason, too.
Through eight games this post-season, there is no other Western Conference skater who has put up more points than Getzlaf, who added to his outstanding point totals with two goals and four points Wednesday, including his aforementioned assist on the game-winning goal. In fact, there’s only one player, Evgeni Malkin, who has been more productive in the entire post-season. And that Getzlaf is scoring at such a rate seems to be simply a continuation of what he was doing to close out the regular season. Dating back to the start of February, Getzlaf posted eight goals and 35 points, and across the final month and a half of the season, Getzlaf put up four goals and 27 points in 18 games. McDavid was the only player who outscored Getzlaf.
But in the playoffs it hasn’t just been that Getzlaf is putting up points, but how he’s doing it. Generally speaking, Getzlaf is a pass-first guy, which isn’t hard to decipher considering more than 70 percent of his career points are assists. As of Thursday, though, the only player who has lit the lamp more often than Getzlaf is Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel, and Getzlaf’s seven tallies have him tied with Silfverberg for the second-most in the post-season. Getzlaf isn’t scoring gimmies or tap-ins, either. In the past two games, he’s scored by attacking the net hard, forcing turnovers and making the Oilers pay and plain, old wiring pucks home. He’s making the goals happen, taking the game to Edmonton in a way no player was able to over the course of their entire first-round series against the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks.
Getzlaf’s contributions have gone beyond simply stuffing the stat sheet, however. It’s been evident how reliant the Ducks were on their captain down the stretch and have been since the post-season began. Over the final month and a half of the campaign, no forward took more shifts per game for his club and only Ondrej Palat had a higher average ice time than Getzlaf, who skated 21:12 per outing, an amount that’s generally reserved for defensemen. He was impactful on the power play, shorthanded and at even strength, all of which he has continued this post-season. His 23:06 per game is the most of any forward in the playoffs by a full minute and a half, and of forwards left playing, Getzlaf is top three in power play ice time, top 30 in shorthanded ice time and only three forwards have averaged more time at even strength.
Even when it comes to underlying numbers, Getzlaf has been so incredibly solid, especially in the playoffs. Coach Randy Carlyle has made Getzlaf the third-most frequently used Duck when there’s a defensive zone start, yet Getzlaf has managed a positive possession rate, boasting a 51.7 Corsi for percentage, and he has a scoring chance for percentage of nearly 57.5 percent and goals for percentage of 75 percent during 5-on-5 play. None of this to mention he was superb in the faceoff circle during the regular season and has only improved with the games mattering that much more. His 56.7 percent winning percentage is the third-best among any center still in the playoffs. And while the value of faceoff wins has been debated, it only further proves that Getzlaf has been reliable in any role he’s been asked to play.
Still, Getzlaf has been somewhat overlooked with the storylines permeating through the battle between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, the four-goal performance by the Ottawa Senators’ J-G Pageau, the continued dominance of the Nashville Predators and the first go-round in the post-season for McDavid. That can’t and shouldn’t continue now, though. Getzlaf’s four-point game Wednesday was his biggest of the playoffs, but a performance that was bound to happen with the way he’s been playing. And given the force he’s become against Edmonton, there may be no stopping him now.
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