Ducks vs. Wild, Round One Preview

The Anaheim Ducks energized their fans last summer when they brought Chris Pronger in via trade, and charged out of the gate as the NHL's top team during the first two months of the regular season. Now that the playoffs are here, will they still be able to dominate against a Minnesota Wild team that lurked in the mediocre Northwest, only to make a strong charge down the stretch? Let's see what the numbers can tell us...

For table explanation, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

How Anaheim can score: Take a good long look at that "Sht % Factor" line, and abandon all hope, Ducks fans. Minnesota's goaltending appears to be the story of this series, choking off scoring opportunities to the point that Anaheim is only expected to score 2.02 goals per game (+0.25 for home games), easily the lowest mark amongst all of these first-round matchups. The key here will be on the close-in shots, of 19 feet or less. The Ducks should get their share of those shots, but if Nicklas Backstrom keeps up his furious pace, there may not be much payoff coming out of them.

How Minnesota can score: The Wild have basically a mediocre offense, and there isn't much in this matchup to suggest they'll be anything other than that against the Ducks. In most of the critical scoring ranges, Anaheim's goaltending is generally good, making up for an above-average amount of shots yielded from within 30 feet.

Summary: Mediocrity on offense seems to be enough for the Wild here, as they hold an Expected Goals/Game advantage of 2.90 to 2.02 for Anaheim. Even home-ice doesn't seem to play much of a role here.

Outside the Numbers: Remember that the numbers used here represent Exponential Moving Averages - weighing recent performance much more heavily than games at the beginning of the season. Have the Ducks merely coasted during the last few weeks of the regular season, biding their time and waiting to "flip the switch" for playoff action? They'd better hope so...

The Prediction: I'll take Minnesota in 5 games(!), in an upset that leaves Ducks fans wondering how it all fell apart so quickly.
Table Key:
Shots For = average of shots per game by that team, from the range specified.
Shots Factor = a factor representing how many shots the opposing defense yields in that range (1.24 = 24% more than average, 0.89 = 11% less than average).
Exp. Shots = "Shots For" times "Shots Factor", how many shots are expected to occur within each range.
Sht % = The fraction of shots from within that range result in goals.
Sht % Factor = a measure reflecting how the opposing goaltender handles shots from a given range (0.74 = 26% fewer goals than average, 1.53 = 53% more than average)
Exp. Sht % = "Sht %" times "Sht % Factor", the expected shooting percentage for this matchup.
Exp. Goals = "Exp. Shots" times "Exp. Sht %", the number of goals per game expected from each range.
Values indicative of significantly higher goal-scoring are shaded green, values for lower goal-scoring shaded pink.
All figures represent exponential moving averages, giving greater weight to recent performance. Empty-net goals and Penalty Shots are excluded.

Technorati Tags: stanley cup playoffs, anaheim ducks, minnesota wild

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