Tuesday April 21st, 2015

Off The Draw

The series between the Ducks and the Jets might be playing out very differently if not for the trade Anaheim made in 2013 that sent disgruntled first-liner Bobby Ryan to the Senators in exchange for winger Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesena and a first round pick in 2014.

Silfverberg has made a dramatic impact. He’s keyed the Ducks’ offense from the second line with his speed, playmaking ability and dazzling release, and has scored two goals, with two assists, to help carry Anaheim to a 3–0 series lead. He scored the winning goal with 19.8 seconds left in Game 2, and had the primary assist on center Ryan Kesler’s equalizer that sent Game 3 to overtime on Monday night.

Ducks spoil Jets' first home playoff game in 19 years with overtime win

Beyond bringing Silfverberg to town, trading Ryan had the added benefit of sending away the final two years of his contract commitment, which counted $5.1 million against the salary cap. The extra cap-space ensured that there was room for the team to trade for Kesler (and his $5 million hit) last summer.

There’s also an interesting angle to the Ducks’ acquisition of Noesen, who was called up from the minors ahead of Game 3 but did not dress. Anaheim had targeted the promising forward with the 22nd pick in the 2011 draft, but missed him when Ottawa took Noesen at No. 21. Not liking anyone else quite as much at that spot, the Ducks swapped their pick to the Maple Leafs for the rights to selections No. 30 and 39, which they used to draft goalie John Gibson and center Rickard Rakell, last night’s OT hero.

Ryan, meanwhile, doesn’t have even a point in three playoff games for the Senators, and has just one assist in his last 13 games.

All in all, the deal is paying off for Anaheim.

• I had one thought after watching the Wild’s 3–0 dismantling of the Blues last night: If St. Louis, which now trails 2–1 in the series, had put half as much energy into their play as they had into the scrums that came after play had stopped, they might have earned a different result.

There's no shame in losing to Minnesota, an excellent team that executed an aggressive game plan to near perfection on Monday. The shame for St. Louis is in how it responded. The Blues have experienced enough in recent years to be capable of handling this type of hurdle. But faced with a team giving a concerted, physical effort—basically, faced with a team playing the game much the way they play it themselves—they couldn’t muster an appropriate response during the game.

Or even after it.

“You can't play 15 to 20 minutes against this team and expect to win games,” St. Louis captain David Backes said after the game. “We need a full 60-minute effort like we did in Game 2.

“We've got another chance on Wednesday to assert ourselves for a 60-minute game, with 20 guys on the ice, and get a job done. Another lesson. Put this behind us and know that it’s a battle out there. It’s a war and it’s going to take a great effort every night against this team. Here we go looking to Wednesday now.”

How disappointing.

Maybe Backes hadn't yet processed what had just happened. His clichés nevertheless do not inspire confidence in his team’s ability to get itself back on track.

It’s too early to write the Blues off, but after so many recent playoff disappointments—they have now lost nine consecutive playoff games on the road—it’s hard to believe that they still don’t have the 60-minutes thing figured out yet, or that past failures have provided so little understanding of what it takes to advance. 

St. Louis didn’t lose a tough one Monday night. The Blues took a measly 17 shots. And their best players—including Backes, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie—came up small in the clutch. Again.

While Backes his mates are “looking to Wednesday,” they might also want to keep next season in the back of their minds. Because if they can't assert themselves any better in Game 4 than they did on Monday night, it's a good bet that some of them won't be wearing blue when 2015–16 rolls around.

The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

• In his last 15 games, the PenguinsDavid Perron has taken 40 shots, has just two assists and is –9.

Looking at his production, it’s logical to come to the conclusion that nobody gave Oilers GM Craig MacTavish enough credit in January for getting a first-rounder in this year’s draft from Pittsburgh in exchange for the struggling winger. That pick could be huge considering that MacTavish just one the rights to take Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick.

The numbers game

• The Ducks made history on Monday night with their comeback victory in Winnipeg. Anaheim also won Games 1 and 2 after being down by a goal after 40 minutes. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Ducks are the second team in Stanley Cup playoff history to win three consecutive games in one series when trailing entering the third period. The only other team to do it was the 1943 Bruins, who came back to defeat the Canadiens in Games 1, 3 and 5 of their semifinal series, all in overtime.

• Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23 of 24 shots as the Rangers withstood a late rally to defeat the Penguins 2-1. The victory was the 45th of Lundqvist's postseason career, moving him into a tie with Tony Esposito and Jonathan Quick for 20th place on the NHL’s all-time playoff wins list.
• Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk made 17 saves to earn his first playoff shutout in just his third career appearance. He joins Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper as as the only goaltenders in franchise history to record a postseason shutout.

Hot links

• Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford went off on a reporter in the wake of Pittsburgh’s 2–1 loss to the Rangers on Monday night. You know what they say about character being revealed, Jimbo.

• Turns out that the falling Canadian dollar might put a crimp in the NHL’s salary cap after all, despite earlier assurances from the league that it would not. No matter how you look at it, the fluctuating value of the loonie is the single biggest issue facing the league.

• You know that new rule that grants teams the right to compensation when coaches and key executives are poached? Apparently the NHL has amended it to include compensation for contracted employees even after they’ve been fired. What an inexplicable, indefensible position.

• Why would Ilya Kovalchuk want to return to the NHL after this?

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