Ducks-Sharks: Is It All Just "Puck Luck"?

Bobby RussellCorrespondent IApril 20, 2009

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 16:  Head coach Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks looks on during action against the Anaheim Ducks during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, 2009 at HP Pavilion on April 16, 2009 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Although it's reasonable to scream "fair-weather writer!" at me—since I haven't published an article since January—I figured I should contribute some playoff observations now that the Ducks have quacked their way into the NHL spotlight.

The biggest question the Ducks face heading into Game Three is whether or not they're better at being lucky than being good. Sharks coach Todd McLellan is leaning towards "lucky," and it's hard to fault him given his team's shot advantage after two games.

“I’m not too sure that the guys in there, after the two games, I think if you went through and asked each of the guys, they’d think they’re the better team,” said McLellan. “They’re not getting the puck luck."

The keep-doing-what-we're-doing interview is the most clichéd in hockey, but it's true that if the Sharks play as well as they did in Game Two, the Ducks will need to improve in order to win Game Three.

The Sharks will probably continue to pour on the shots, and they might even score a power play goal, but for every improvement there's usually a hole that opens up. The Ducks have been opportunistic, and that needs to continue for them to win the series.

The biggest reason for the Sharks' shot advantage is that they have been awarded 12 power plays. The Ducks have had six.

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Granted, San Jose has also carried the play during even strength for the most part, but a six-to-two advantage in power plays means eight extra minutes of time on attack—which equals more shots on goal.

Will the Sharks continue to get the majority of the power plays? Probably.

The officiating hasn't been bad, and the vast majority of the calls against the Ducks have been legitimate. The Ducks should have no complaints about the penalties they've taken, and Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne should put a lid on their post-whistle whining if they want officials to take them seriously.

The real issue is that the Ducks have not been able to draw calls over the past two seasons.

When other teams cycle the puck and put the Ducks on their heels, the Ducks take penalties—as expected. But when the Ducks get their time in the offensive zone, teams are either playing remarkably clean defense (not likely), or the Ducks aren't getting the benefit of the doubt. 

Not coincidentally, the Ducks have been getting even fewer power plays than normal over the past three weeks. When your power play is performing close to 40 percent, officials aren't going to be inclined to give you the marginal calls.

Though special teams is the most glaring statistic so far in this series—with the Sharks' 0-for-12 power play the major eyesore—a bigger concern for the Sharks is that the Ducks' defense has been doing a better job of forcing shooters to the outside and clearing the crease.

I cannot recall a single instance where the Sharks' forwards have deflected a point shot on net; they've mainly been blocking their own shots, then scrambling to shovel the loose pucks into the net. So far, it hasn't worked at all.

Game Two was chippier than Game One, and expect it to go up another notch in Game Three. There hasn't been a goaltender interference penalty or a post-whistle line brawl yet, but both teams are going to be crashing the net—with extreme prejudice—on Tuesday in Anaheim.

With the right balance of intensity and discipline, and maybe a little more puck luck, the Ducks could be on their way to the biggest upset of the first round.

Bobby Russell is the Community Leader for the Anaheim Ducks on Bleacher Report. You can contact him, make fun of him for living in a warm climate, or add him to your lineup by going to his profile.


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