ANAHEIM — The Edmonton Oilers have a serious matchup problem in their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Ducks. It’s the same one the Calgary Flames had against the Ducks in the first round, which ended in a four-game sweep.
The problem stands 6-foot-4, weighs 221 pounds and answers to the name of Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks’ captain and top-line center. He’s been their most forceful player, their playoff leader with eight goals and 15 points after rallying them to a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 5.
Calgary never discovered an answer.
Edmonton’s search continues Sunday in Game 6 at Rogers Place.
Coach Randy Carlyle laughed a cruel laugh when a reporter wondered several hours before Getzlaf put his stamp on the Ducks’ historic Game 5 comeback at Honda Center how he might shut down the 12-season veteran if he were facing off against him.
“You really think I’m going to answer that?” Carlyle asked, clearly relishing his advantage in the on-ice chess match with Oilers coach Todd McLellan but also with the out-of-town reporter. “I’ve said this before, but I’ve never said it to a media person: Beat it.”
McLellan has tried a little of everything short of kidnapping over the years in an attempt to slow down Getzlaf, first as coach of the San Jose Sharks and now with the Oilers the past two seasons. Getzlaf tormented McLellan as never before with two goals and two assists in Game 4.
The Oilers tried to attack Getzlaf with their speed.
They tried to hit him and muscle him.
Didn’t work either.
Getzlaf’s virtuoso performance, which included the first two-goal playoff game of his career, propelled the Ducks to a 4-3 OT win Wednesday in Edmonton that evened the best-of-7 series, 2-2, setting up an all-important Game 5 on Friday. All eyes were trained on Getzlaf.
“Who’s kidding who?” McLellan said. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s got tremendous size, strength, skill, vision and experience. So, if you think that one type of game, one guy, is going to shut him down, it’s not going to happen that way. It’s going to have to be a group effort.”
Getzlaf exposed the Oilers’ weakness at center again in Game 5, igniting the Ducks’ rally from a 3-0 deficit with the first of their three goals in a span of 3 minutes, 1 second. Later, 6:57 into double-OT, he set up Corey Perry’s game-winning goal with a deft pass from along the left-wing boards.
There is literally no one who matches up with Getzlaf from a physical standpoint. The Oilers’ best center is Connor McDavid, who might very well be the best player in the NHL this season despite being only 20 years old. Getzlaf turns 32 next Wednesday, the date of a possible Game 7.
McLellan doesn’t want McDavid chasing Getzlaf around the ice. McLellan would be asking too much of his top player, likely restricting his offensive chances to only a handful in what very well might be another defensive exercise in futility for the remainder of the series.
Besides, McDavid had a rough time trying to rid himself of Ryan Kesler, the Ducks’ second-line center and all-around pest. McDavid has three goals and two assist in the series going into Game 6, fine numbers, to be sure, but no match for Getzlaf’s five goals and five assists.
“You want to be smart,” Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom said of trying to thwart Getzlaf. “You cannot go out there and think you can run him over and take the puck. He’s very strong on the ice. He wants you to engage so he can create the (open) ice for the other players, so you have to smart.
“He’s very tricky to play against.”
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