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5 Reasons: Why Ducks advanced

Young defense, coach Randy Carlyle's in-game adjustments helped Anaheim defeat Oilers, reach conference final

by Dan Arritt / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks advanced to the Western Conference Final for the second time in three years with a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 on Wednesday.

The Ducks will play the Nashville Predators in Game 1 at Honda Center on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Anaheim had lost in Game 7 four straight times at home, including the 2016 first round to the Predators and the 2015 conference final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here are 5 reasons the Ducks advanced:


1. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry

Getzlaf and Perry were second-year forwards when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and they spent most of the past 10 years on the same line. They rarely were together this season, when Perry's production tapered.

Getzlaf and Perry were reunited prior to Game 4 of the second round against the Edmonton Oilers because of a lower-body injury to forward Patrick Eaves, and they combined for five points (two goals, three assists) in a 4-3 overtime win that evened the series.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle kept them together when Eaves remained sidelined. Perry had six points (one goal, five assists) in the final four games of the series, including a goal in the second overtime of Game 5. Perry had three points (one goal, two assists) in the first seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Video: EDM@ANA, Gm5: Getzlaf nets slapper from the point


2. Randy Carlyle

In-game adjustments are Carlyle's strength, and he made several that helped navigate Anaheim through the second round.

He bumped forward Nick Ritchie to the top line with Getzlaf and Perry midway through Game 7, and that led to some prime scoring opportunities before Ritchie scored the game-winner at 3:21 of the third period.

Carlyle also put forward Jakob Silfverberg on the ice with Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell to start overtime of Game 4. Silfverberg scored off a well-placed pass from Getzlaf 45 seconds later.


3. Young defense

The Ducks won four of the past five games without a defenseman older than 25.

Kevin Bieksa, 35, sustained a lower-body injury in Game 1 and was replaced by Korbinian Holzer, 29, in Game 2.

The Ducks went down 2-0 in the series. Holzer returned to Germany for personal reasons, and it was up to Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson (each 25), Brandon Montour and Hampus Lindholm (each 23), and Shea Theodore (21) to help bring them back.

Montour, who didn't become a fixture in the lineup until late in the regular season, stood out the most in the second round, finishing with four assists and a plus-6 rating.

Video: EDM@ANA, Gm5: Fowler makes it a one-goal game late


4. Bounce-back ability

The Ducks trailed by at least two goals in five of the first six second-round games but managed to push the series to a seventh game. They fell behind by one goal in Game 7 before staging another comeback.

The in-game turnarounds were in stark contrast to how Anaheim performed when behind during the regular season. The Ducks were 4-9-6 (.211) when trailing after the first period and 2-19-7 (.071) when trailing after the second. Each win percentage ranked in the bottom five in the NHL.

The Ducks won Games 4 and 7 after trailing at the first intermission, and Game 5 after trailing 3-0 with 3:16 left in the third period.


5. Experience up front

In addition to Getzlaf and Perry, the Ducks also were bolstered by veteran forwards Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano, Antoine Vermette and Nate Thompson, giving them at least one experienced, calming voice on all four lines.

Kesler took on the heavy responsibility of defending Oilers center Connor McDavid, whose 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) led the NHL in the regular season. Kesler, 32, helped limit the 20-year-old to five points (three goals, two assists) in the series, none in the final two games.

Cogliano scored the tying goal in Game 7, and Vermette and Thompson centered the third and fourth lines, winning multiple key faceoffs along the way.

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm3: Kesler bangs home puck at the doorstep

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