It shouldn’t be surprising that the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings are heading to a Game 7 in their second round, best-of-seven playoff series.
After all, this was the first ever meeting between the two California hockey rivals in the postseason.
It’s just how they got here that may be a shock to some.
The Kings came into Anaheim and stole Games 1 and 2 to take a 2-0 series lead. Then as the series shifted to Los Angeles, the Ducks came right back and took two in LA to knot the series at 2-2.
Anaheim became the first team to win at home in Game 5 while the Kings returned the favor in Game 6.
So here we are. Game 7 tonight for the chance to move on to the Western Conference Finals.
Who needs to step up for the Ducks in Game 7?
It’s tough to name one defensemen, so we’ll just go with the whole group. The defense hasn’t played poorly, but they haven’t been spectacular either.
The big knock that I have may be the team effort in the defensive zone when trying to clear. There have been times where the Kings will apply plenty of pressure and the Ducks fail to clear the zone, resulting in numerous Kings’ chances on Gibson. It came back to bite them in Game 1 as the Kings tied the game with seven seconds left and would eventually go on to win in overtime.
Sami Vatanen has been a welcome addition as his speed has allowed him to lead the rush on occasion, but his mistake following a poor line change led to the Kings’ first goal in Game 5. There have been some unfortunate bounces as well off Bryan Allen and Vatanen, but those are just tough pills to swallow and nothing can be done about a fortuitous bounce against the Ducks.
Outside of Game 1, the Ducks have done a great job of closing out games. They needed to stand tall in one-goal games and were able to hold on in the waning moments of Game 3 and Game 5. The group has also contained Kings’ star Anze Kopitar, but have failed to stop Marian Gaborik who has five goals in the series.
If the defense can hold serve against the Kings’ superstars, limit simple mistakes, and get the bounces to go their way, the chances of pulling out Game 7 at home become greater.
Most Ducks fans don’t want to hear this, but it’s just the reality of it: Tonight could be the final game of Teemu Selanne’s career.
Sorry Ducks fans.
The Finnish Flash was nearly the hero of Game 1 with a goal late in the third period, but the Ducks couldn’t hold on. However in Game 3, Selanne tallied a crucial goal to give the Ducks the lead. His ability to see the ice clearly hasn’t gone away as he fed a beautiful pass from behind the net to Mathieu Perreault that led to a goal in Game 5.
Selanne has shown glimpses of his old self, but he has only been getting around 10 minutes per game on the ice. It has to be in the back of his mind that tonight could be it for him, so expect a motivated and fired up Selanne.
3. Ryan Getzlaf
The Captain played like the Hart Trophy finalist that he is in the first round and for most of the second round, but was noticeably invisible in Game 6.
It was the first game of the postseason in which Getzlaf was held off the score sheet as he also failed to record a shot on goal. He finished with a -1 rating and took a bad penalty late in the contest.
The disappearance couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Ducks as they weren’t able to eliminate the Kings in Game 6. But every star has their off night and Getzlaf is still averaging a point per game this postseason.
Expect Getzlaf to prove that his Game 6 performance was a fluke, which it was. So watch for him to have a dynamite Game 7.
2. John Gibson
The legend of John Gibson was becoming one of epic proportions as he stifled the Kings’ offense in Game 4 and Game 5. However, he finally became human in Game 6 as he gave up a soft goal to Trevor Lewis that trickled between his pads. The goal would eventually count as the game-winner as the Ducks lost 2-1.
But other than that, the 20-year old has been outstanding in net to say the least. Here are his second round stats:
John Gibson 2nd Round Stats
The kid has come up big for the Ducks this series with numerous tough saves. He led the Norfolk Admirals, Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, to a Game 7 victory just a few weeks ago.
The AHL is no NHL, but having the experience of playing in a Game 7 can pay dividends for the rookie tonight.
1. Corey Perry
If there is one player the Ducks are hoping will explode in Game 7 tonight it’s Corey Perry.
It’s been a tale of two rounds for the Ducks’ star forward. After another stellar regular season and a solid first round series against the Stars in which he tallied seven points in six games, Perry has been silenced by the Kings. He has only registered points in two of the six games so far this series.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has stopped some glorious chances by Perry, but that’s no excuse for a 40-goal scorer. Perry has all the ability in the world to put the puck in the net in a variety of ways and that’s what the Ducks are looking for tonight.
It has been the role players that have gotten the Ducks to this point and now it’s up to players like Perry and Getzlaf to lead the Ducks to the Western Conference Finals.
Game 7 is tonight at 6:00 p.m. PT on the NBC Sports Network.
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