ANAHEIM, CA - Without even playing a single game in this series, the first shot across the bow was fired verbally by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle during his morning media availability.
"I know they're going to be making faceoffs a priority. They're going to be whining to the officials because that's just the way playoffs are," Carlyle remarked. "Everybody has their crosses to bear on what the opposition is doing. We've been a strong faceoff team so I'm sure they're going to complain to the officials about the way we're taking faceoffs."
When asked about Carlyle's comments, Oilers captain Connor McDavid responded amicably.
"That's fair," McDavid said. "They're the top team in the League on faceoffs and we're the bottom team in the League on faceoffs. It's going to take a lot of help from wingers and dmen and all that."
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan chuckled when informed of Carlyle's comments.
"I've been whining about our faceoffs all year because we're in 30th place," laughed Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. "I don't think that's a brilliant comment by any means. When you're in 30th you're not happy with where your team's at. Sometimes these games are played and some of those comments are an admission of guilt because they're very effective in the faceoff circle and they do some things. It's nice to distract."
McLellan added that he did hope to see some improvements made by his team in that category.
"I don't think we're going to go from 30th to first but if we can take our numbers up from whatever they were against this team up two or three percent and try to win the real important ones, that'll be a real key for us but their centres have a lot of experience in situations like this and they're very good about what they do."
And it should be noted that certainly faceoffs are important but in the two games where the Oilers did the best against the Ducks in the dot (49% and 48%) they lost 4-1 and 4-3 respectively while the other three games (44%, 44%, 41%) they emerged victorious.
QUESTIONS ON DUCKS DEFENCE
One of the storylines for Anaheim last round was their injuries on the blueline. They were able to overcome them and ultimately sweep the series but the loss of Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen plus an injury to Hampus Lindholm still hurt the club.
All three should be ready to go tonight or at the very least available to the team. Carlyle was evasive when asked if they were all indeed going to play.
"They're all available," he said.
"We have a decision to make because we have a surplus of defencemen here. We'll make a decision after warm-up on who's going to play and who's not going to play. We're not stuck with our lineup. We have some question marks on our side just like they have a question mark with Klefbom."
LINE MATCHING NO WORRY FOR OILERS
McLellan reiterated his comments from earlier this week that the Oilers aren't going to be too worried about line matching.
"We didn't earn home ice so we have three opportunities to win last change which in many cases doesn't guarantee you anything because as soon as the puck's dropped, if you win the draw you control the shift but if you lose it they control the change," McLellan opened.
"We understand our players, and Connor in particular, will be a target for their checkers and we understand they have to play through that stuff. You go back to our regular season, there were many nights where we let the matchup happen so they could grow and experience it.
"We won't get away from it but we will play through it."
With Ryan Kesler most likely going up against McDavid whenever possible, the Oilers coach was asked if that meant that Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be a matchup that he'd want. McLellan did not answer that question but he did talk about the impact Getzlaf had on the Ducks series against the Flames.
"I thought he was their best player against Calgary," McLellan said. "He is their heart. He's the head of their snake and he comes to play. That's why they are where they're at. He makes their special teams work. He's penalty killing now. We have a tough task ahead of us to play against him for a seven-game series. He has some tendencies we're aware of and maybe we can jump on those in certain situations but to play as long as he has and won as many championships as he's been through at different levels, he's very capable of that."
McLellan also talked about how much experience the Oilers gained last round going through six games and ultimately winning against the defending Western Conference champs.
"We learned a lot," he said. "For a group that hasn't been in the playoffs for a decade and never together, there were a lot of learning moments or teaching moments in that series. Number one, the energy in the building - both buildings, all buildings - the home team seems to capture that for the first 10 minutes. We learned the officiating standard. We learned a lot about momentum. We learned how to respond from a blowout and how to hold leads. We learned how to play in a close-out type situation. We learned a lot about the rigours of playoffs, how you empty the tank and find a way to reload it without a lot of practice time."
McDavid added that the team has handled itself well despite the lack of experience.
"We have a little more than people give us credit. We're comfortable in these situations. They might have a little bit more but it's not a big deal."
McLellan went on to talk about the experience that the team will pick up in round two and hopefully beyond.
"We're going to learn a lot of lessons going forward. I think this is a great opportunity for our group. One, we have the opportunity to win and move on and two we have the opportunity to play as one of the eight final teams in a very intense environment and that can only help us as we move forward."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (4-2) at DUCKS (4-0)
TV: 8:30 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet
And then there were eight.
Only eight teams remain in the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and one of those teams is the Edmonton Oilers who square off against the Anaheim Ducks in round two starting tonight in Anaheim.
The Oilers and Ducks are in fact the top two remaining teams left in the Western Conference based on points gained during the regular season but only one will advance to the Western Conference Final due to the NHL's divisional playoff format which has been in place since 2015.
Edmonton has only played Anaheim once before in the playoffs and that was in 2006 when the Oilers defeated the then Mighty Ducks four games to one and advanced to the Western Conference Final.
OILERS KEYS TO SUCCESS:
SPECIAL TEAMS: Anaheim was penalized a lot during the regular season (second-most penalties in the NHL) and they have been penalized a lot in the post-season as well (tied with the Oilers for the most penalized). The Oilers need to capitalize on their power play chances and also defend better than they did against the Ducks in the regular season while a man down. Anaheim scored on the PP at a 28.5% clip versus Edmonton in 2016-17.
MCDAVID VS. KESLER: A lot has been said about the effect Selke Trophy nominee Ryan Kesler could have on the series where he'll undoutedly be matched up against Connor McDavid but during the regular season, McDavid put up seven points in five games against the Ducks.
THE DRAISAITL EFFECT:Leon Draisaitl scored six goals in five games against the Ducks this season, including two overtime winners. The Oilers will need the German at the top of his game.
Edmonton: The Oilers are healthy with the exception of Tyler Pitlick, who's out for the season; Oscar Klefbom (illness) is expected to play tonight.
Anaheim: Simon Despres (Concussion) is out; Cam Fowler (Knee) is probable to play in Game 1; Hampus Lindholm (Undisclosed) is probable; Clayton Stoner (Abdominal) is questionable; Nate Thompson (Upper Body) is probable; Sami Vatanen (Upper Body) will return in Game 1.
The Oilers have a record of 5-3-2 in their last 10 games against the Ducks, having won three of their last four. ... Kris Russell had 27 blocked shots in the first round, ranking second in the NHL behind only San Jose's Justin Braun.
Historically, Game 1 is the Oilers least successful (tied with Game 3), with an all-time record of 28-22 (.560). However, on the road at 11-14 it's more successful than Game 2 or 3 dating back to the team's playoff inception in 1980.
Oilers to watch in this series includes Jordan Eberle, who has six goals and 15 points in 27 career games against the Ducks, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (20 GP, 6 G, 8 A, 14 PTS), Leon Draisaitl (12 GP, 8 G, 5 A, 13 PTS) including two overtime winners this past season and Connor McDavid (8 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS).
Former Duck Patrick Maroon has five assists in six games against his former team. In 204 career games in Anaheim, Maroon had 26 goals and 79 points plus 249 penalty minutes. In 97 games as an Oiler since being acquired at the trade deadline last season, Maroon has 35 goals and 56 points plus 129 PIMs.
Cam Talbot is 4-5-1 in 10 career games against Anaheim with a 2.31 goals-against average and one shutout.
"Matching can be over-emphasized, it can take a number of players out of the game, it can destroy your rhythm and you'd like to have an edge but if you don't get it, you still got to find ways to win. We're going to play four of seven games on the road, odds are we're not going to get it, we'll find a way to get through it somehow." -- Oilers head coach Todd McLellan on the potential drawbacks to line matching.
Series Tied 0-0
Apr 26: Edmonton at Anaheim - 8:30 p.m. MDT Apr 28: Edmonton at Anaheim - 8:30 p.m. MDT Apr 30: Anaheim at Edmonton - 5:00 p.m. MDT May 3: Anaheim at Edmonton - 8:00 p.m. MDT May 5: Edmonton at Anaheim - TBD May 7: Anaheim at Edmonton - TBD May 10: Edmonton at Anaheim - TBD
Edmonton won the season series this year 3-2-0
Nov 15: Edmonton 1 at Anaheim 4 Dec 3: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT) Jan 25:Edmonton 4 at Anaheim 0 Mar 22: Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 4 Apr 1: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT)
In 2006, Edmonton defeated Anaheim 4 games to 1 in the only playoff match-up ever between the two teams
May 19:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 21:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 23: Anaheim 4 at Edmonton 5 May 25:Anaheim 6 at Edmonton 3 May 27:Edmonton 2 at Anaheim 1