Series Recap: Ducks Versus Jets

As the regular season has come to an end, Last Word On Sports analyzes every playoff series heading into this week’s action. In the first installment, we take a look at the matchups in five categories: Offense, defense, goaltending, coaching and special teams. We also run down the players to look out for and give our final assessment on how the series will pan out. In the second portion, we will analyze what went down in the series, how the matchups led to the outcome and cover all important storylines.

The Anaheim Ducks came into the 2015 playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference, yet many people thought they would struggle in their first round series against the Winnipeg Jets. The Ducks shut up the disbelievers and proved why they were the best team in the West this season, as they swept the Jets out of the first round. However, it wasn’t as easy as it appeared, as the Ducks repeatedly had to come from behind to beat Winnipeg.

The Series: Ducks Versus Jets

Game 1: All season long, the Ducks have made a habit of coming back in the third period to win games. The first game of this series showcased just how good the Ducks can play in the final period. After jumping out to an early lead with a Sami Vatanen goal, the Ducks allowed the Jets’ Adam Lowry to tie the game less than a minute later. In the second period the Jets took the lead on Drew Stafford’s three on two goal. The Ducks’ power play showed up in the third period when they scored two goals with the extra man and Corey Perry scored his second of the game at even strength. Perry ended the game with two goals and two assists. Final: Ducks 4-2

Game 2: The Ducks came out flying in the first period outshooting the Jets 17-9, however, Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec held them off the scoreboard. In the second period, the Jets struck first, when Adam Pardy scored his first goal of the playoffs and forced the Ducks to make another third period comeback. Patrick Maroon tied the game up for the Ducks midway through the third period thanks to a Cam Fowler shot tipping off him in front of the net. Late in the third, Pavelec made his first mistake of the game, coming off his short side post in the final minute of the game, allowing Jakob Silfverberg to score with 21 seconds left in the game. Final: Ducks 2-1

Game 3: The Jets and Ducks offenses came to play, as both teams went back and forth in the highest scoring game of the series. In the first period, Lee Stempniak started off the scoring at 09:38 of the first, bringing the Winnipeg faithful to their feet. Ten minutes later, Cam Fowler scored to even up the game with only 7 seconds left in the period. Corey Perry got the Ducks a lead early in the second, but Tyler Myers and Blake Wheeler came back to give the Jets the lead again. Game two hero Jakob Silfverberg, tied the game for the Ducks late in the second, however, Bryan Little put the Jets back on top 4-3 two minutes before the second intermission. In the third, the Ducks’ Ryan Kesler scored at 17:46 of the third to send the game to overtime. Five minutes into the overtime period, Rickard Rakell scored to give the Ducks a 3-0 lead in the series and leaving Jets fans feeling like their team let the Ducks steal away the series. Final: Ducks 5-4

Game 4: The final game of the series wasn’t as close as the first three, and was the only game the Ducks didn’t need to make a third period comeback. Bryan Little put the Jets in front 1-0 in the first, but the Ducks Emerson Etem scored an amazing goal to tie the game going into the second. Andrew Cogliano put the Ducks on top 2-1 with a goal in the second, forcing the Jets to make a comeback in the third. Ryan Kesler had other plans though, as he took over the game for the Ducks, scoring twice in the final period and sealing the game for Anaheim. Final: Ducks 5-2

Storylines of the Series

Blake Wheeler Shut Down
During the regular season Blake Wheeler was the Jets leading goal scorer and second leading point getter. However, during the four games against the Ducks, Wheeler had one goal and zero assists. Four games is hardly the best sample size to judge players, but when you’re expected to be one of the best players on the team, and your team gets swept, you have to be accountable for your play.

Goaltending Questions Answered
Before this series began, a lot of people questioned how well each team’s goaltending would hold up. For Anaheim, Frederik Andersen had been splitting starts with John Gibson leading into the playoffs, and some felt Gibson was playing better at the end of the regular season. However, Gibson wasn’t 100% to start the series and Andersen ended up playing well throughout, and now appears to be the full time starter unless he falters. For the Jets, the start of this season saw Ondrej Pavelec lose his starting spot to rookie Michael Hutchinson, before reclaiming it shortly before the playoffs. Pavelec was hardly the weak spot on the team and aside from the late goal in game two didn’t have many serious gaffs. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the Jets goalie situation next year.

Ducks Depth Wins Out
While the Ducks top two lines played great in the series, it was their bottom two lines and defense that continually chipped in with timely goals. From Etem’s great goal and Cogliano’s go ahead tally in game four, to Rakell’s game three OT winner, and solid point contributions from Fowler and Vatanen on the blueline. The Ducks won this series because they were the better overall team and coach Bruce Boudreau was able to keep rolling all four lines each game. The Ducks are one of the deepest teams in the league and will need to continue to use that to their advantage as the playoffs roll along.