If you can get past the overload of orange in the crowd and on the ice, this Ducks-Oilersseries could be something beautiful.
There's a strong narrative in this series, and it surrounds the idea of validation.
On one side you have the Ducks, a team that has seen sustained regular season success under a core groupofelders includingRyan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry. Anaheim's five consecutive division titles is the longest active streak in the NHL, but they'veadvanced past the postseason's second round just once in that timeframe -- a conference final defeat in 2015.
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That's not ideal,and itprobably doesn't help that their division and intrastate rivals, the Kings and Sharks, have each made Cup runs in recent years.
This Anaheim corehas tasted postseason success before -- Getzlaf and Perry won a Cup with the Ducks as21-year-olds in 2007, while Kesler made the Cup final with Vancouver in 2011 -- but there's a palpable desperation to revisit it.
On the otherside you have Edmonton -- back in the playoffs for the first time in a decade -- asthe young, feel-goodCinderella team. Not long ago they were the laughingstock of the league, continuously dominating the draft lottery year after yearand hopingthat thenextprized prospect would propel them to success.
The fourth lottery win in six years finally did the trick. They landed the indomitable Connor McDavid.
The 20-year-old kid is one of the most exciting and electrifying young talents not only in hockey, but in all of sports. He's the future of the league and well worth the cost of admission alone. He's got thatwow-factor that brings good oddshe'll dosomething incredibly special every night.
McDavid has already announced his arrival -- he's the Art Ross winner this season and will likely take home the Hart as league MVP as well -- but now it's the Oilers turn. Edmonton seeks to firmly establish newfoundlegitimacy with a strong Cup run.
The series opener set the table for what could be one of the more intense matchups that hockey fans will see in theseStanley Cup Playoffs.Game 1 had plenty of entertainment value with eight goals, a few dramaticmomentum shifts and, yes, a little bit of nastiness.
If Game 1 in Anaheim on Wednesday night was any indication,the second-round series between the Ducks and Oilers could be a whole lot of fun.
After two periods of back-and-forth action, it looked like Edmonton was ready to pull away with the game in the third period when they ripped off two goals in just over a minute. Those back-to-back strikes left for a tense and awkward atmosphere at the Honda Center. The Ducks fans in attendance were left sitting in stunned silence while hoards of traveling Oilers fans reveled in the game's shift.
But that was quickly turned on its head when the Ducks returned fire with two quick goalsof their own to tie up the game.That injected plenty of life back into the home crowd as the game headed into the home stretch.
Ultimately, though,the Oilers were able to bounce back and take back the lead for good. Defenseman Adam Larsson, who was sent to Edmonton from New Jersey inexchange for Taylor Hall last summer, got the game-winning goal with a little bit of puck luck.
Larsson carriedthe puck into the Anaheim zone and was behind the Ducks' goal line when it appeared he attempted to center the puck for an oncoming teammate. That pass attempt bounced off the stick of goaltender John Gibson and into the net, giving Larsson his second goal of the night. He had just four goals in 79 games during the regular season.
It was a fun 60 minutes of hockey, which is to be expected with most games in theNHL's postseason. But if you weren't already looking forward to Game 2 and beyond, the extracurriculars at the end of the gamemay have done the trick.
It wasn't exactlyshocking that tensions happened to boil over.Getzlaf, Kesler and Perry have a penchant of being physical and getting under opponents' skin. They're notorious for getting aggravated when things don't go their way, and those three were quite active in stirring the pot late in Game 1.
With a relatively young and inexperienced Oilers team on the other side, it's predictable that Anaheim would be physical andtry to occupy space in Edmonton's head.While itmay not have totally workedin Game 1 -- theDucks still came up short on the scoreboard -- the shenanigans towards the opening game's final horn feltlike atone was being set for the rest of the series.
Not only is it going to be a competitive struggle with high-octane talent, it seems fair to expecta mental and physical war in the trenches as well. A spot in the Western Conference Finalmay be reserved for whoever does a better job of keeping their head.