The Anaheim Ducks entered the season and the playoffs as a legit Stanley Cup contender, but it could all come crashing down with a Game 7 loss to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.
With the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks already eliminated, the Ducks have a much easier path to the Stanley Cup Final compared to recent seasons. They must first take care of business in Round 1, though.
Here’s a quick preview of the second Game 7 of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs:
Need to Know
Date/Time: Wednesday, April 27 at 10 p.m. ET
TV/Live Stream: NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra
Location: Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Player to Watch For Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf, C
Getzlaf has failed to score in each of Anaheim’s last three Game 7 matchups, and all of them were losses. The Ducks captain has played well with two goals and three assists in this series, but Getzlaf has been absent in too many important games in recent seasons. He has zero goals and two assists in the last eight potential series-closing games for Anaheim.
Player To Watch For Predators: James Neal, RW
Neal led the Preds with 31 goals during the regular season, and he gave an excellent performance in a Game 6 win with a goal and an assist. Neal has averaged five shots per game in Nashville’s wins this series and just two shots in the three losses. Given the quick release, accuracy and power behind his shot, it would benefit Neal and the Predators if he was extra aggressive in Game 7.
Goaltending Matchup: Pekka Rinne has struggled in this series. He has a .901 save percentage through six games and gave up four goals in both Game 4 and Game 5. His adjusted save percentage during 5-on-5 play is an abysmal .889, and that must improve for Nashville to have a chance in Game 7.
Frederik Andersen has excelled since starting Game 3 in place of John Gibson. The Danish netminder has a .935 adjusted save percentage at even strength, and he’s a perfect 18-for-18 on shots against in penalty-kill situations. Goaltending isn’t a concern for the Ducks entering Game 7 — giving Andersen enough offensive support is the worry.
Key Stat: Corey Perry has zero goals in this series. That’s unacceptable for a player who’s averaged 39.4 goals scored over the last five non-lockout seasons. Perry is playing well defensively, but he’s paid more than $8 million annually on average to be one of the league’s best goals scorers.
Prediction: The Ducks are the better team, and they have shot a higher percentage, own a better save percentage and have won more faceoffs during 5-on-5 play in this series. That said, all bets are off if Nashville scores first. All the pressure is on Anaheim because it’s on home ice and was expected to compete for a Stanley Cup title this season. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau — who probably is coaching for his job in this game — has not had a good series, particularly with matchups. He’s also 5-11 all time in series-clinching games.
My prediction is the Ducks win 2-1, but we shouldn’t be surprised if the Preds pull off an upset. Nashville knows it can win in Anaheim after taking the first two games at Honda Center.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Nashville Predators left wing James Neal
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