The Anaheim Ducks rounded out their final Canadian road trip of the season over the weekend with a back-to-back against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
Given the fact that there’s a good chance Anaheim faces one of those two teams in the first round of the playoffs, intrigue was higher than it usually is for the 78th and 79th rounds of an 82-game slog.
After getting generally out-played in a loss to the Oilers on Saturday night, the Ducks managed to rebound in a big way against Calgary the following night with a convincing 4-3 victory.
As alarming as the loss to the Oilers was, the victory against the Flames was a sigh of relief. So what do we take away from it all?
TSN’s Travis Yost recently wrote a piece on the predictive value of head to head regular season match-ups in forecasting playoff series and, as it turns out, they seem to matter quite a bit.
He found that teams that out-score their opponents head-to-head have won their playoff matchups 64.6% of the time since 2007-08, and 68.1% of the time in the last five years. That’s pretty significant.
After head-to-head goals, overall shot attempt differential, goals for percentage, and save percentage were found to dictate outcomes the most. Analyzing through that lens, let’s see how Anaheim grades out against its potential opponents (data from Corsica).
Ducks vs. Oilers 2016-17
|49.76%||Corsi For % (5v5)||49.76%|
|52.29%||Goals For % (5v5)||54.17%|
|53.6%||Chances For % (5v5)||50.89%|
Both clubs are essentially neck-and-neck here. Anaheim holds a slight edge in head-to head goals, which bodes well. Edmonton isn’t particularly deep, and their blueline isn’t anywhere close to Anaheim’s. Factor in Connor McDavid, though, and things get much tighter.
Shutting down McDavid’s line will be a huge task for the Ducks. Both Ryan Kesler and Hampus Lindholm are both hovering around a 43% Corsi For against him this season. That’ll have to improve, especially with the young phenom playing more minutes once the playoffs roll around.
Ducks vs. Flames 2016-17
|49.76%||Corsi For % (5v5)||50.65%|
|52.29%||Goals For % (5v5)||49.26%|
|53.6%||Chances For % (5v5)||47.28%|
Once again, Anaheim holds a slim advantage in head-to-head goals. They’ll play the Flames one more time this season, so that figures to change.
Even though the hockey world seems to be enthralled with Calgary as of late, the Ducks grade out pretty nicely in nearly every category here. The Flames have played much better in the back half of the season, so their numbers might sell them a bit short.
Calgary has a deeper attack than Edmonton, and a stronger blueline. Anaheim’s defensemen will have their hands full with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk. Might that be easier than 25 minutes of Connor McDavid a night, though?
Neither Canadian team would be a walk in the park for Anaheim. The numbers suggest a hard-fought series in both hypothetical cases.
Ultimately, the idea of having to only shut down — or at least tread water — against one line in Edmonton, as difficult as it may be, sounds more palatable than dealing with a deeper Calgary squad.
Maybe sliding back into the second spot to face a potentially Joe Thornton-less San Jose Sharks seems more appealing all of a sudden.