We are around the halfway point of this series between Anaheim and Edmonton, and we’ve seen quite the interesting first three games. Anaheim, a team everyone expected to defend home-ice well, dropped both games 1 & 2 at Honda Center. Going back to Edmonton, where the matchup game was going to give the Oilers a huge advantage, the Ducks managed to purely outscore a speedy Edmonton lineup. Given how crazy this series has been so far, I’d like to take a deep dive into the stats behind the first three games of this series. Time to run the numbers.
The Possession Battle
|Regular Season||49.67 (19th)||49.99 (18th)|
|Round #1||48.83 (12th)||51.99 (4th)|
|Rd 2 Game #1||59.57||40.43|
|Rd 2 Game #2||64.95||35.05|
|Rd 2 Game #3||41.98||58.02|
Both Anaheim and Edmonton were average possession teams throughout the regular season. Despite the talent in their lineups, Neither team seemed to be able to out-Corsi their opponents on a consistent basis. Despite that fact, both teams were in the running for the Pacific Division title till the very end. So, as much as we love our fancy stats here at Anaheim Calling, our own team has been an anomaly when it comes to the advanced metrics argument.
Heading into Round #1, Edmonton certainly had the more difficult matchup of the two despite the injuries that San Jose was dealing with. Anaheim, who had to face a talented but not all that terrifying Calgary Flames team, seemed to be set up to have the more dominant first round in the possession department. And while the Ducks “dominated the series” (read: pulled four games out of their ass) by sweeping the Flames, Edmonton actually had a much stronger showing on the possession front in the first round.
So, coming into Round #2, it was very hard to predict just how the possession battle would go between these teams. You could possibly give Anaheim a slight edge due to their forward depth and cycling-style, but Edmonton’s speed was certainly going to be able to produce a plethora of chances. In the end, your guess was as good as anyone else’s.
Game #1 started an odd trend for this series. Anaheim destroyed Edmonton at 5-on-5, but Edmonton’s speed and ability to finish on the powerplay put them over the top with a 5-3 win. After that game, it seemed Anaheim’s gameplan for the rest of the series was simple: stay out of the penalty box and their dominant puck control would put them over the top.
In Game #2, Anaheim seemed to solve their one problem, sort of. While Anaheim did take four penalties, the penalty kill looked the best it had since the regular season. Edmonton’s one goal with the man-advantage game off of a flukey bounce off an Edmonton skate. And, despite Gibson giving up an early goal that you can argue he should have had, the Anaheim netminder was stellar the rest of the game, almost single-handedly holding Edmonton to two goals.
Again, the Ducks dominated possession at 5-on-5. However, a lack of net-front presence for the first half of the game and Cam Talbot willing his team to a win kept Anaheim from getting the job down as they came at the Edmonton defense in waves. Anaheim, again, dropped a game at home in which they were the clear winners in the possession department.
Then, in Game #3, it was Anaheim’s turn to defy the statistics. Despite losing the possession battle at even strength by a large margin, Anaheim seemed to be able to score at will. The Ducks simply outscored the Oilers in a 6-3 shootout, getting them back in this series.
Despite the fact that large-scale models of corsi at even strength being a solid predictor of victories in the NHL, both Edmonton and Anaheim seem determined to throw that out the window this series. While both teams should definitely strive to control the possession battle throughout the rest of this best-of-7, it will in no way guarantee them a win.
The “Big Matchup” Games #1-3
|#17 vs #97||Kelser||McDavid|
|#17 vs #97||Kelser||McDavid|
|Corsi for %*||58.95||43.01|
|Zone Start %*||61.29||36.67|
The Kesler/McDavid matchup was the biggest storyline heading into this series. The consensus seemed to be that whichever team got the better of this battle would have the best shot at winning this series.
So far, while McDavid has produced his fair share of scoring chances, Kesler has seemed to be able to contain the young star fairly well. Nearly two-thirds of McDavid’s zone starts have been outside of Anaheim’s end. For comparison, McDavid started 55.29% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone during the regular season. This means that Kesler, along with the rest of the Anaheim lineup, has done a great job at forcing McDavid to earn his offensive zone time.
McDavid’s 5-on-5 corsi for % also shows how much the young center has been forced to play a defensive role this series. His corsi for % is 10 pointss less than his regular season number, showing that Anaheim is spending a lot more time with the puck while McDavid is on the ice. Tack on the fact that McDavid has only been able to muster a single point at 5-on-5 through three games, and it’s easy to see that Kesler has done a fine job to this point at keeping Connor McDavid under wraps.
While Kesler’s job won’t get any easier from here on out, it’s promising that he has been up to the task of containing McDavid through the first three games.
The Goaltending Duel
|#36 vs #33||Gibson||Talbot|
|#36 vs #33||Gibson||Talbot|
|5v5 HD Shots Against||15||17|
|5v5 HD Sv%||86.67||64.71|
What is, in my opinion, the most underrated matchup of this series is between the goaltenders, Gibson and Talbot. Both netminders were huge keys not only in their respective teams’ regular season success, but in their Round #1 victories as well.
So far this series, John Gibson has continued to be stellar against high-danger attempts. Cam Talbot, in comparison, is giving up a goal for every three high-danger shot attempts against him. While it’s hard to blame Talbot for letting in goals when Anaheim’s skaters get so close to the net, Gibson’s ability to become a wall when Edmonton’s scorers get close has gone a long way this series.
While Gibson has given up a few soft goals these playoffs, he has continued to be a rock for Anaheim. The only category where Talbot has him beat is on the PK. If Anaheim can avoid the penalty kill like the plague, Gibson’s stellar play at 5-on-5 will be huge for Anaheim in trying to take back this series.
This series has been an odd one for stats. Both teams continue to defy the Corsi Gods, Kesler has done better than most expected in shutting down Connor McDavid, and the goaltending duel between Gibson and Talbot has been a marvel to watch. I definitely am curious to see how this series plays out if some of these trends continue. Regardless, we’ll have plenty of numbers to digest when it’s all said and done.