2017 NHL Conference Finals Postmortems
A brief look at what went wrong for the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators in the recent Conference Finals and their possible offseason plans.
Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks fell in six games to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Final. Injuries plagued both clubs but took more of a toll on the Ducks.
Starting goalie John Gibson left Game Five in the first period with a series-ending lower-body injury. The absence of wingers Patrick Eaves throughout the series and Rickard Rakell following Game 4 (lower-body injuries) hurt their offense, while blueliners Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen played with shoulder injuries and Kevin Bieksa suffered a torn MCL.
The Predators were also bang-ed up in this series, suffering the season-ending loss of top center Ryan Johansen. However, they successfully rolled four lines against the Ducks. While Anaheim dominated the play at various times in this series, they couldn’t contain Nashville’s opportunistic scorers.
Heading into the offseason, the Ducks risk losing a good defenseman to the Vegas Golden Knights in next month’s expansion draft. If general manager Bob Murray opts to protect three defensemen, Under this scenario, they could be forced to choose between exposing Lindholm, Vatanen, Cam Fowler or Josh Manson.
Should Murray opt to protect those four, he’ll face exposing winger Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg. The Ducks cannot afford to lose a scoring forward. Rather that possibly lose a good defenseman for nothing in the expansion draft, Murray could attempt to move one of their blueliners via trade.
Ottawa Senators. The underdog Senators pushed the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to the limit before bowing out in double overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. While the Senators exceeded expectations with their 1-3-1 defensive style, they lacked sufficient depth to effectively neutralize Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
There were plenty of inspirational stories involving this club. In addition to goalie Craig Anderson’s solid playoff performance, his wife overcame cancer earlier this season. Captain Erik Karlsson lead his club in scoring and ice time despite two hairline fractures in his left heel. Winger Clarke MacArthur made a triumphant return from career-threatening concussion symptoms.
Turning to the offseason, Senators GM Pierre Dorion will attempt to build upon his club’s strong playoff run. Restricted free agent forwards Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Ryan Dzingel will be re-signed, as could unrestricted free agents Mike Condon and Viktor Stalberg. The Sens could use more blueline depth, particularly on their third pairing, and another scoring winger.
Like his counterpart in Anaheim, Dorion also faces some juggling to protect key players in the upcoming expansion draft.
If he protects three defensemen, he risks losing a veteran such as Marc Methot or a young defender such as Cody Ceci. If he protects four blueliners, he could be forced to expose a forward such as Pageau or Dzingel. He could also leave Bobby Ryan unprotected in hopes Vegas takes his $7.25 million cap hit off the Sens’ hands, but the winger’s strong playoff performance could make him worth keeping.