Kid Ish's Playoffmetrics, Game Three

@JHowardDesign

Best wishes to Robidas. He was only with us for a short while, but he was manly and smelled really good all the while.

GAME THREE

The media gamesmanship between both teams has officially begun. Something to understand about the playoffs: both teams have a chance to address the officials at the beginning of the series (and during) to outline concerns and specifications, how the crew intends to call the games, etc. Every team does it, so there's no moral ground lost or gain when a coach or player says something like "we've told them to watch out for this already" to the media. Literally every team does it behind the scenes, and adding that public mention is just another part of it.

Furthermore, the officials review the games on off days to check out what they missed in real time. They "review the tape" the same way teams do when altering strategy and tactics. If any of the concerns noted by teams match up with valid evidence seen in the game, the referees will see it and incorporate it into future games. So any sound from Boudreau or Ryan Getzlaf or Patrick Maroon (or just whoever) is noise in my mind. If the Stars lose this game, they probably take issue with this thing or that thing too. Like, it just happens.

This is hockey. It gets rough, it gets emotional, and it gets violent, especially in the playoffs. Getzlaf can take care of himself, even if he has a jaw contraption. When he speaks up post-game, he's frustrated but also playing the normal media gamesmanship thing, and blah blah blah. Ultimately, he got sucked into the Dallas Stars game plan last night, and it was a winning plan. He'll be fine.

In terms of hockey, there are things to consider from this game and hopefully see corrected in the next game. That starts with Getzlaf and Corey Perry not getting sucked into the play of inferior players trying to knock them off their game. When those two are going strong and not getting suckered into nonsense, it goes down the bench and helps other guys keep order. As the Twins go, the team goes.  [Ed. Note:  See Scott Niedermayer, after Daniel Alfredsson shot the puck at him in Game 4 of the 2007 Cup Final. -CK]

Here are the charts, courtesy of extraskater.com. Here are the shot attempts without blocks throughout all game states:

Fenwick_chart_for_2014-04-21_ducks_0_at_stars_3_medium

Here are the even strength shot attempts:

Ev_fenwick_chart_for_2014-04-21_ducks_0_at_stars_3_medium

This was a game of three phases, really. Those phases were: good hockey, dumb hockey, and good goaltender.

In the first period, the Ducks did a great job shrugging off the Stars desired game. The Ducks were giving as much as they were getting in terms of physical play. The Stars have previously complained about Ducks players crowding the crease, and they continued this here as well. There was a lot made of players like Perry taking runs at Kari Lehtonen from the Stars side, and deservedly so, because Perry usually runs every goaltender he faces in a series several times.

(In fact, if the Stars had lost game three, maybe Ruff is out in front of the media complaining about Perry and Getzlaf taking liberties with their goaltender. Who cares, both teams are validly cheating to gain advantage, including the Ducks. Trust me.)

But back to that first period: the Ducks held the edge in possession. They held the edge in chances. (Saku Koivu missed a gloriously wide open opportunity pretty early on. He had so, so much space and time and missed the on the outside by an inch.) They were about even with the Stars in hits. The game was well in hand at that point, but one unlucky rush goal given up against a tired set of players on the ice (after closing off the PP) was the difference.  

To me the turning point in the game was Ryan Garbutt taking out Stephane Robidas. Not only did it weaken the blue line by removing a steady player's minutes, it clearly amped up the emotions of the players. From that point on, the Ducks stopped trying to win the game the way they had in the first two and started trying to get into a physical battle with the Stars.

And you know what? The Stars will win that battle. In an out and out physical war, the Stars have fewer relics like Selanne and more borderliners like Garbutt who play effective hockey while also edging toward the utter and uncaring annihilation of opponents. Don't hate them for it: that's Stars hockey for several years now. They do it pretty well.

A word on Garbutt's hit: it was probably reckless, but there's no way it was intended to end Robidas' career. Garbutt is very fast. He really tried to get to that puck first, and I think he probably thought he would when challenging a less mobile defenseman. When he laid out to reach forward, with Robidas in full view, he thought he'd get the first touch and remove the defenseman from the play at the same time. The worst possible result came from it, and nobody would have expected or wanted that.

After Robidas went down, the Stars drove play far better than the Ducks until they scored the second goal. (That was a helluva shot, so let's ease up on whether Frederik Andersen should have had it. Yes, he should have. But that shot was pretty nifty too.) And that's where the game was really lost: the Ducks were running around, chasing the Stars, who had knocked the team off their game to engage in more tomfoolery.

By the time the Ducks took the hell back over in terms of driving play, and both of those extraskater charts show how effective they were at it, they were dealing with a very confident netminder in Lehtonen. He made some good (not brilliant) stops in the last period to give his team the win.

So what can we learn from this game? The Stars came out of the gate trying to play the same way they closed the game. They didn't change their strategy in the middle of it (well, except I think Daley was told to stop egging on Getzlaf, so Ruff had Roussel do it from then on). The Ducks were the ones who changed their game in this one, and it cost them. If the team comes out in game four playing the same way they did in games one and two as well as the first period of game three, they will be fine.

The Ducks have been quicker, heavier, and more consistently first on pucks than the Stars have. They have skated harder and, except for some questionable Perry-ness from our star winger, have generally tried to score more than they've tried to hurt anyone. Since games are won or lost based on goals, not dead bodies, I think trying to score more goals is the key here.

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