Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators Game 6: Reactions and Analysis
Almost immediately after the puck drop, it was apparent that one team wanted the win in this Game 6 more than the other, and it definitely wasn't the team that was looking elimination square in the eye.
A hard-fought game finally put the Nashville Predators over the top and into the second round for the first time in franchise history, winning game 6 by a score of 4-2.
They won the series by that same score.
The trends that had been developing throughout the series were completely shattered over the last two games of the series.
For one, Game 5 saw the end of the streak of no lead changes, the series' first overtime period and the team scoring first also scoring second.
In game 6, the Predators became the first team to win in the series despite not scoring first and also the first team to win two games in a row.
Teemu Selanne, who had an absolutely remarkable series for Anaheim, opened the scoring in the first period with a beautiful backhand shot that beat Pekka Rinne on the short side.
It was a huge goal in that it gave Anaheim a gigantic lift despite their being badly outplayed in the opening minutes of the contest.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Nick Spaling tied the game with his first-career playoff goal just 28 seconds before the first intermission.
He wouldn't have to wait long for his second, as that would come just under five minutes into the third period and would wind up ultimately being the series-clinching goal that the Ducks would never get back.
Nashville's other goals would come from Steve Sullivan (his first of the series) and David Legwand, who I guess you could say finally got his sweet poetic justice for being embarrassed by Bobby Ryan in game 5.
Anaheim's only other goal would come on the power play from Jason Blake, Selanne's linemate, who had an excellent end to the series, scoring three huge goals in the final two games.
However, the Ducks, who needed to show the same incredible urgency and desperation they had in Game 4, looked extremely flat-footed all night, and with the exception of the last five minutes or so, never really had any periods of sustained attack in five-on-five play.
Nashville outshot Anaheim, 30-27.
The Predators are now awaiting the results of a few other series to see who their next opponent will be, most likely either Vancouver or San Jose; however, it could potentially be Los Angeles with the Preds having home ice if the Kings are able to come back and win their series with the Sharks.
Either way, I expect the Predators to shock the hockey world again by taking down their next opponent.
Don't be surprised if this Nashville team makes the Western Conference Final; their defense, forecheck and extremely high-speed style of play make them a huge handful, and with their power play clicking for a goal in every single game of this series (except Game 5, and Game 6's really shouldn't count, either, since it was an empty-net goal), they're white-hot at exactly the right time.
For Anaheim, the shocking early exit after such an amazing second half to the season is no doubt raising questions of where the team went wrong.
Was it their terrible start to the series in Game 1, losing 4-1 on home ice and being basically dominated in absolutely every facet of the game while losing the home-ice advantage they had just scratched and clawed their way to win?
Was it continually shooting themselves in the foot defensively with mistakes and turnovers that led to high-quality scoring chances, and safe to say most of the Predators' goals this series?
Was it an inconsistent defense that, while it contributed well offensively, gave up three or more goals in every game of the series?
Was it a mediocre penalty kill that allowed a Nashville power play that entered the playoffs as the worst of the 16 teams to make it to essentially have its way with them that was their ultimate downfall.
Was it the Ducks' poor defensive-zone decision-making that lead to an inability to get the puck out of their zone when they needed to in critical times?
Was it Nashville's complete dominance in the faceoff circle, winning 52.6 percent of the draws?
Would the result of the series have been different had they not been without the services of their All-Star goaltender, Jonas Hiller, who only appeared in three games after the All-Star break and still continues to battle symptoms of Vertigo?
Was it the fact that, in 10 meetings between these teams this season, the Ducks were only able to win three times and only once on the road?
Was it all the smack talk between the respective front offices that got into the heads of the players in both locker rooms?
Was it the several apparent penalties to Anaheim that replays heavily suggested were dives that bought Nashville some bonus power plays?
Or was it just a lack of spirit and drive when the Ducks so desperately needed it in the third period, being outplayed badly for the first 10 minutes of the final frame and only really starting to push back once they were already down a goal to a defense they have struggled all year to beat?
Either way, a lot of wonderful years for spectacular players has now suddenly gone to waste.
Corey Perry's Rocket Richard Trophy-winning 50-goal year, which essentially carried Anaheim from the bowels of the West to the last home-ice advantage spot, is now meaningless other than a note in the record books.
Additionally, Perry's league-leading eight playoff points to this point is now gone.
Teemu Selanne's 80 points in 73 games played (becoming just the third player aged 40 or over to average over a point per game) and playoff-leading six goals are now gone.
Bobby Ryan's spectacular goal in Game 5 that will no doubt stand as the best goal of the 2011 playoffs and possibly the entire 2010-2011 year is now meaningless.
Linemate Ryan Getzlaf's brilliant year with an NHL fourth-best 57 assists despite only playing 67 games is now gone.
Jonas Hiller's lights-out first half, in which he was the only reason the Ducks were even competitive in some games, giving him his first career All-Star selection, is now gone.
Lubomir Visnovsky's league-leading 68 points as a defenseman, which will very likely make him a finalist for the Norris Trophy, as well as his partner Toni Lydman's second-best plus-32 rating are both now gone.
Rookie Cam Fowler's phenomenal year that saw him lead all first-year defensemen in goals and come second in points, as well as average over 22 minutes of ice time per game, is now gone.
It's difficult to see a brilliant run like Anaheim's come to an end so abruptly, but it's time to move on and begin with the business of summer.
The future looks promising on the Anaheim defense, with young talent like Fowler and 21-year-old Luca Sbisa becoming regulars in the lineup, beating out veterans like Andreas Lilja and Andy Sutton for roster spots on most nights.
Perhaps an even more somber thought for Ducks fans than the loss is that this could be the final game in the career of the Finnish Flash, Selanne, who has been contemplating retirement every summer since 2007.
However, if this team wants to come back and have a shot next year, they're going to have to solidify a defense that the Predators, a team not known for their offense, was able to completely blow to pieces.
It should be an interesting offseason.
One other interesting note: The Ducks debuted their brand-new third jersey on Nov. 26th in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, leading some to start claiming the new threads were "cursed."
In their first season of use, the Ducks went 9-6-2 in their new uniforms, including going 1-1-1 in the three playoff games at Honda Center. Not bad for a first year, I'd say.
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