Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Western Conference Playoff Preview

Detroit Versus Calgary

Detroit has worked to become better defensively and the Wings actually have a lower GAA than Calgary. Meanwhile Calgary tried to improve their offense by trading for Alex Tanguay and the Flames scored more goals than the Red Wings. So both teams have improved in areas of weakness.

A Deeper Look: Despite Detroit having the top seed there a ton of reasons for the Wings to be wary. Detroit's regular season numbers are greatly inflated because they destroyed non-playoff teams outscoring them (+58) but against West playoff teams they were actually outscored themselves (-1) by a goal--ouch! In almost every category the Wings have huge differences between the numbers they put up against non-playoff teams and West qualifiers, just look at these splits! GFA 3.43 vs 2.66; GAA 2.11 vs 2.69; PP% 18.9 vs 14.5; PK% 91.1 75.8; SV% .915 vs .895.

Calgary also has some big splits in certain areas (Goals For Average 3.52 vs 2.72) but for the most part they varied less with the quality of opponents than we saw with Detroit. In my study of past playoff series shooting percentage is the single best predictor and that goes to Calgary in this match up. Detroit does have experience in their favor but Calgary looks very good to me.



Category DET VS NHL CGY VS NHL
ADVANTAGE
DET VS WEST PLAYOFF TEAMS CGY VS WEST PLAYOFF TEAMS
Games Played 82 82
32
38
Goals For Avg. 3.07
3.11
CGY
2.66 3.11
Goal Against Avg. 2.33 2.70
DET
2.61
2.41
PP % 17.1
18.2
CGY
14.5
15.4
PK % 84.6
80.4
DET
75.8
80.5
Shoot % 9.1
11.4
CGY
8.4
10.6
Team SV% .905 .912 CGY
.895 .909
Total Goal Differential +61
+56 DET
-1
+12
ST Goal Differential +28
+36 CGY


ES Goal Differential +33
+41
DET


Starter SV% .913
.917
CGY


PP Opp Per Game 398
401
CGY


Times Shorthanded 408
414 DET


Playoff Experience 1204
884
DET



Anaheim versus Minnesota
It is unfortunate that the Wild drew the Ducks because Anaheim is the class of the Western Conference. If you look at the table below Anaheim dominates--winning every regular season category except for team SV% and starter SV%.

A Deeper Look: Not only was Anaheim very good during the regular season, but they were awesome versus the other playoff teams out west. Anaheim is the ONLY team with a positive goal differential versus the other Western teams piling up a huge +30 figure. When playing other playoff teams the Ducks actually had a better SV% and a better GAA than they did versus non-playoff teams. Are there any bright spots for the Wild? Not many, other their goaltending.

Category ANA VS NHL MIN VS NHL ADVANTAGE ANA VS WEST PLAYOFF
TEAMS
MIN VS WEST PLAYOFF
TEAMS
Games Played 82 82
36
36
Goals For Avg. 3.10 2.93 ANA
2.89
2.74
Goal Against Avg. 2.41 2.87 ANA
2.06
2.24
PP % 22.4
18.1 ANA
19.0
19.7
PK % 85.1
81.8 ANA
86.7
86.2
Shoot % 9.8
9.3 ANA
9.4
7.9
Team SV% .912 .922 MIN
.923 .912
Total Goal Differential +56
+5 ANA
+30
-7
ST Goal Differential +36
0 ANA


ES Goal Differential +20 +5 ANA


Starter SV% .918
.929 MIN


PP Opp 398
348 ANA


Times Shorthanded 410
433 ANA


Playoff Experience 677
443
ANA


Vancouver and Dallas
If you're looking for another home ice team to be upset this is a series to consider. These two teams are very similar in that they rely upon a strong defense and good goaltending to win games. While the Canuks are the favorite and hold home ice, the Stars hold the advantage in nearly every regular season category except for goaltending and PK%.

A Deeper Look: The Dallas Stars ran wild against non-playoff teams scoring 3.15 goals per game but this fell way off to just 2.11 goals per game against West playoff teams. On the other hand Dallas was one of those rare teams that allowed more goals against (2.48) to weak teams than to quality opponents (2.17). So it appears that the Stars played more wide open hockey against weaker teams but played a more defensive style of game against good teams. Dallas also had the better special teams in games versus West playoff teams.

Looking for some good news for Vancouver? Well they do have the edge in shooting % versus West playoff qualifiers 8.7 to 7.9 over Dallas--oh and they have this guy named Luongo in net too. This is one series where I think a single player (Luongo) could do something special and negate all thoe other statistics.

Category VAN VS NHL
DAL VS NHL
ADVANTAGE VAN VS WEST PLAYOFF
TEAMS
DAL VS WEST PLAYOFF
TEAMS
Games Played 82 82
36
36
Goals For Avg. 2.65 2.65 EVEN
2.42
2.11
Goal Against Avg. 2.40 2.35
DAL
2.78 2.17
PP % 17.2
18.5
DAL
17.2
17.7
PK % 86.9
84.4 VAN
86.9
89.0
Shoot % 9.0
9.5
DAL
8.7 7.9
Team SV% .918 .907
VAN
.908 .916
Total Goal Differential +20
+24
DAL
-13
-2
ST Goal Differential +26
+29 DAL


ES Goal Differential -6
-5 DAL


Starter SV% .921 .910 VAN


PP Opp Per Game 407
427
DAL


Times Shorthanded 436
377 DAL


Playoff Experience 544
987
DAL


Nashville versus San Jose
I have to say that I've liked the Sharks from day one this season, but the numbers suggest that this could be a very competitive match up. Both teams have areas of strength, Nashville has the better offense, PK%, ST% and SV% while San Jose has the getter GAA, PP%, receives more power plays and avoids being shorthanded. Nashville has the best shot % of any team in the West which bodes well for them.

A Deeper Look: The Predator defense really shut down non-playoff teams (2.20 GAA, .929 SV%) but was significantly weaker against West playoff clubs (2.97 GAA, .906 SV%). A good portion of this difference in defense was driven by their PK which was great against bad teams (91.0%) but very porous against the West playoff squads (78.4). If Nashville can avoid penalties that will help their cause.

The Sharks also had a some big splits, as they torched non-playoff teams with a 25.2% Power Play only to see that fall to 19.1% against West playoff teams. Just like Nashville the Sharks looked great defensively against weak teams (2.25 GAA, .914 SV%) but not so hot against tougher competition (2.75 GAA, .897%).

These two teams have similar problems (defense versus quality opponents). They ended the season with the same goal differential, they also have the same goal differential in games versus West playoff teams. I smell a fantastic playoff series.

Category NSH VS NHL SJS VS NHL ADVANTAGE NSH VEST PLAYOFF
TEAMS
SJS VS WEST PLAYOFF
TEAMS
Games Played 82 82
32
36
Goals For Avg. 3.24
3.12
NSH
2.94
2.72
Goal Against Avg. 2.52 2.40 SJS
2.97 2.75
PP % 17.4
22.4
SJS
16.1
19.1
PK % 85.8
83.3
NSH
78.4
81.4
Shoot % 11.8
10.9
NSH
11.0
9.6
Team SV% .919 .908 NSH
.906 .897
Total Goal Differential +59
+59
EVEN
-1
-1
ST Goal Differential +26
+48
SJS


ES Goal Differential +33 -11 NSH


Starter SV% .922 .914 NSH


PP Opp 408
410
SJS


Times Shorthanded 387 330
SJS


Playoff Experience 496
539
SJS



Next up: Why the Thrashers Can Win

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