clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ducks vs. Flames Special Teams Preview

New, comment

It’s a tale of two hockey teams.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Many people will tell you that penalty minutes go down during the playoffs compared to the regular season. That’s not particularly true. At least not in the last couple of years.

Last postseason, 8 of the 16 teams who made the Stanley Cup Playoffs had greater than 10 PIM/60. That’s half of the field. Compare that to the regular season when 11 out of 30 teams had greater than 10 PIM/60, or about one-third of the field.

In the 2015-2016 regular season, the NHL averaged 9.99 PIM/60.

In the 2016 playoffs, the teams averaged 11.62 PIM.

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know there’s a much smaller sample size. I know how stats work. But in a world where a team only has to get 16 wins to become a champion, averages give us a good comparison.

With that in mind, special teams have probably become a little more important than previously thought, right?

Let’s take a look at what it means for the match up between the Ducks and the Flames.


Anaheim

The Ducks’ special teams spent most of the season as polar opposites of one another.

First, the good news: Anaheim finished 4th in the league on the penalty kill with 84.7% of the man advantages naturalized. The Ducks picked up where they left off last season for the most part when assistant coach Paul MacLean led Anaheim to an 87.2% PK, good for 1st in the league.

Now for the bad news: after finishing last season not only with the best penalty kill but also the best power play, the Ducks took a significant step back with the man-advantage. Anaheim sported a meager 18.7% on the power play, good for 17th in the league after finishing with a 23% success rate a year ago.

Luckily there are 13 other teams who were worse than the Ducks in that department, so it’s not all bad. But given the general increase in power play opportunities over the last year or so in the postseason, the Ducks will want to take advantage of it as much as possible. They may be doing just that as noted by Orange County Register beat writer Eric Stephens.

The key to all of this is discipline. The Ducks have consistently been one of the most penalized teams over the past decade. They will need to lock things down and avoid playing noted teddy bear Jared Boll as much as they can. That’s probably wishful thinking, however, as this series between the Flames is very likely to explode with blind, raging, ice fury over the last game these two teams played.

This year, they ranked number 2 on the penalty leaderboard in both total PIM and in PIM/60.

Guess who was number 1?

Calgary

The Flames come into the postseason as the only team more penalized than the Ducks.

What do you expect with goons like Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano on your team (I’m kidding Flames fans please don’t light me on fire)?

As for what Calgary is capable of on special teams, the Flames stand in the upper-middle of the pack on both sides.

The Flames rank 12th (81.6%) on the penalty kill and 11th on the power play (20.2%).

The boys from Alberta have to know what they’re getting into: playing a big, physical team that is still pissed about its best defensemen being taken out with a knee-to-knee hit by the other team’s captain, intentional or not. The Josh Manson beat down during that game only temporarily soothed the sting, so they should be expecting the Ducks to not truly be satisfied until the Flames have been knocked out of the playoffs, preferably hurting.

It’s for this reason Calgary will undoubtedly be evaluating its special teams to try make any improvements necessary to take advantage of a match up that very likely could have the most penalty minutes of any series in the playoffs.

Who has the edge?

The Ducks have the edge in the special teams category, but barely. The Flames were only 1.3% better than the Ducks on the power play this year while the Ducks were 3.1% better on the penalty kill.

This series will probably render this entire article pointless, however, after both teams get into a line brawl off the opening faceoff of Game 1 while the benches clear and go after each other as well.

Carlyle will hop off the bench and attempt to give Glen Gulutzan a welcome to the Pacific Division as Paul MacLean pile-drives the Flames equipment manager into the ice with his glorious mustache.

Jared Boll will come flying out of the press box in his suit to justify his salary while Bob Murray puts old buddy Brian Burke in a stranglehold while yelling “HOW YOU LIKE THAT TRUCULENCE?!” Barstools will fly.

This series will be fun. I’ll have the popcorn ready.