We’ve seen them plenty last season, and the reputations and names are still the same. Getzlaf (yuck). Kesler (ew). Perry (blech).
The Anaheim Ducks forwards truly blend size and skill, their top six being filled with tall power forwards. On the other side, their bottom six is not all that impressive. Antoine Vermette is their third line center. That’s right, there’s a center on this roster below Vermette on the depth chart, namely Nate Thompson. While the top six is as fearsome as any team in the league, the Ducks could certainly be deeper and may not be able to roll four lines against the Predators.
With less size and more skill, expect much more open ice in this series than the last six games the Predators have played.
The Captain Leads the Way
While other forwards on the team may have less than stellar reputations around the NHL, Ryan Getzlaf has always been a respected player. Despite being 32-years-old, the 6’4” center has been reinforcing that respect this postseason.
After posting five points in four games against the Calgary Flames in the first round, Getzlaf exploded for ten points in the Ducks’ seven-game-set against the Edmonton Oilers. With eight goals and seven assists, Getzlaf trails only Evgini Malkin among remaining players in the playoff scoring race.
Ryan Getzlaf is a great starting point, because so much of what he does resembles how the rest of the Ducks play hockey. Namely, Ryan Getzlaf gets to the net to score goals, and so does the rest of Anaheim.
Aside from the point, where the Anaheim defensemen prey, the forwards crash the net. Players like Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler will use their size and strength to force their way into the front of the net and, once there, they thrive.
Looking at the red bubble on the right side, it is right where Corey “the devil himself” Perry’s sweet spot is.
In the last playoff game in which the Predators faced the Ducks, Corey Perry was constantly taking shots from this area of the ice. He loves getting the puck off his stick there and does a great job of using defenders’ bodies as screens. always looking to move the puck just a little bit to change the angle or shoot through an opponents’ legs. The Predators are going to not only really lock down on Getzlaf and the other Ducks forwards in front of the net, but they need to always keep one eye open for Perry drifting to his sweet spot.
No, I’m not talking about a planetary affliction, but Ryan Kesler has been shutting down top lines for his entire career. The line of Kesler, Jakob Silferberg, and Andrew Cogliano has the same identity as any line Kesler has ever played on. They hit, they skate, and make life absolutely miserable for opposing forwards.
In the last round, the Kesler line was tasked with shutting down the most talented player in hockey in Connor McDavid. They succeeded, limiting McDavid to only five points in their seven game series (yes, that is successfully limiting McDavid. He’s that good).
I’m no betting man, but I’d drop $100 in a heartbeat that the Kesler line is going to go up against JOFA as often as possible. Last year, the Kesler line gave the JOFA line such complications that Forsberg was swapped down to the second line just to get him sprung free. Nevertheless, the Ducks have no issue putting the Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry line against anyone’s second line.
An unsung hero for the Ducks this postseason, especially with how well that Getzlaf has been playing, is Jakob Silferberg. While people were previously predicting that Silferberg would be a Golden Knight come next season, he has been one of the most productive players for the Ducks this postseason with eleven points in as many games. Not only is the Kesler line shutting down whoever they’re up against, but they can do damage themselves.
The Bottom Six is...Mediocre?
What will be a bit of a reprieve from last series against the Blues is that there are no Ryan Reaves or Scottie Upshall type players on the Ducks’ bottom six. They’re fine players, but they are not anything extraordinary special and shouldn’t play as physical of a game.
The third line of Nick Ritche, Antoine Vermette, and Patrick Eaves shouldn’t drop any jaws. Sure, Eaves has had a monster of a season putting up 54 points, but he’s 33-year-old power play specialist that hasn’t put up over 30 points in ten seasons. [editor’s note: Eaves is battling an injury and didn't play the latter half of the Oilers series, so we might not see him] None of these players are going to bring that physicality that the Blues did and are somewhat slow, the lower lines for the Predators could potentially get some nice chances if they had some speed injected into them (*cough* - Salomakii, Aberg - *cough*).
The bottom line also doesn’t have any overwhelming traits. Centered by Nate Thompson, two of Chis Wagner, Logan Shaw, and Ondrej Kase will make up the wings. While Thompson is tall at 6’0”, it’s not like his size is overpowering. Once again, speed can be the difference here, as it’ll be hard for this Ducks line to slow down the Predators like the Blues could.