The Nashville Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks from the playoffs last night, officially making the 2010-11 season the most successful in franchise history.
Anaheim had an interesting run, a run that in many ways reflected their regular season: a phenomenal, first-rate power play, lousy penalty-killing, and a horrendous record in five-on-five play.
From HOTH’s series preview:
The Anaheim Ducks’ power play versus the Nashville Predators’ penalty kill. Nashville’s a very good five-on-five team (the sixth best in the league) and Anaheim’s a really bad five-on-five team – by goal differential the worst in the NHL. Based on the regular season, if this series is decided at even-strength it won’t be a contest. That leaves a special teams battle between weaknesses (NSH PP vs. ANA PK) and strengths (ANA PP vs. NSH PK). That latter battle is essential for the Ducks, and only marginally less so for the Predators.
The Ducks were full value on the power play, scoring at an 8-for-22 clip that currently ties them for first in the NHL (36.4%) with Tampa Bay. Teemu Selanne scored four of his six goals on the power play, continuing a regular season trend (16 of Selanne’s 31 regular season goals came with the man advantage).
But at even-strength, the weaknesses in Bob Murray’s team were wholly evident. With the lone exception of Bobby Ryan, not one Duck finished the series with a higher plus/minus than even. Aside from Ryan, not one forward with more than 25 minutes of even-strength ice-time finished with a positive Corsi – Selanne, much lauded for his spectacular work on the power play, was especially bad by this measure; over an average 60 minute period with him on the ice the Ducks were outshot 33-20. The Ducks’ top line managed to stay close to the break-even mark despite taking on incredibly difficult minutes, but the depth players were slaughtered.
It was a similar story on defense. The top pairing took on incredibly difficult minutes and did fairly well, while the second pairing of Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin were able to at least stay respectable. But the bottom pairing was taken advantage of again and again, despite a very favourable zone start. When Andreas Lilja was on the ice, the Ducks were outscored by a 2:1 margin; with Luca Sbisa on the ice that ratio got even worse.
This is the new reality for the Ducks, until Bob Murray figures out how to build up the depth of his team or he’s replaced by somebody who does. The power play is nice, the top-end talent is spectacular, but the efforts of a lot of very good players are being wasted because the team’s only about 10 skaters deep.