The first round of the playoffs is quickly winding down, with the New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings having their seasons come to a screeching halt (and the Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche possibly joining them after this week’s publication). Let’s take a look at what happened to the teams that were knocked out already.
New Jersey Devils
The long and short answer is that they lacked the experience necessary to be a strong playoff contender. This team had not made the postseason since 2012, when Martin Brodeur was in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career. The entirety of the roster combined for 488 playoff games, while Tampa Bay’s had over 1,100. Tampa simply knew what they had to do to win: force the young, upstart Devils into making costly mistakes, overpower them on the boards and capitalize when they had to.
Special teams were also a thorn in New Jersey’s side, having given up five goals on seven Tampa Bay power plays before settling in to kill off 12 in a row. Still, the Lightning finished with a 26.3 power play percentage on the series compared to just 15.8 when the Devils were a man up.
The Ducks have not been swept in a postseason series since 1999, falling to the Detroit Red Wings in four in the 1999 Western Conference Quarterfinals. That changed when Anaheim was swept by the San Jose Sharks.
They were missing several of the cogs that propelled them to the playoffs during the home stretch. Their first line of Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry did not have a point at even strength. The third line of Adam Henrique, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie did absolutely nothing after chipping in 50 goals and 51 assists during the regular season. Cam Fowler, their most offensive-minded defenseman, suffered a shoulder injury and missed the series. Goaltender John Gibson, who finished the regular season with a .926 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average, flopped.
On top of poor play from needed leaders, the team as a whole struggled on special teams. The Ducks came into this series with the fifth best penalty kill (83.2), but allowed six goals in 20 opportunities. On top of this, they struggled on the power play, scoring just two goals in 12 opportunities (which, by the way, was half of their offensive output). To be fair, this was par for the course for San Jose, who came in with the second best penalty kill in the league.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings came into the series with the playoff experience necessary to take down an upstart Vegas Golden Knights team in their inaugural season. Unfortunately, experience isn’t the be-all and end-all that people would like to make it out to be.
It’s kind of hard to win when your offense is only scoring three times in the entire series. The Golden Knights kept the Kings on their heels. Anze Kopitar had two points on the series after chipping in 92 (35 goals, 57 assists) during the regular season. Dustin Brown recorded a single assist after tallying 61 points (28 goals, 33 assists) during the regular season.
On top of the lack of offense, Los Angeles had to scramble to find the best defensive pairings to match up against Vegas. Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort both missed time due to injuries, and Drew Doughty was suspended for Game 2 after an illegal check. They had to rely on the likes of Oscar Fantenberg, Paul LaDue and Kevin Gravel for minutes early on each game. While all three performed admirably, having Muzzin and Forbort would have been a difference maker.
The push for the Stanley Cup continues to intensify, and more dominoes will fall over the next few days.