Thursday, May 31, 2007

East meets West

Anaheim has dominated the first two games everywhere except on the scoreboard so far and they are not doing it by cheating. They are doing it by playing their game, by maintaining excellent defensive position, by beating the Senators to the open ice and almost every loose puck. So far they have been the superior team by a very large margin, so large that I'll be shocked if Ottawa manages to get back into the series.
I couldn't agree more.

The Western Conference was full of teams like Anaheim this season; the Ducks just happened to be playing that stymieing style better than anyone else they faced in the postseason. The match-ups against Minnesota and Vancouver were textbook examples of positional, defensive hockey, and there weren't any more stick fouls than on the other side of the NHL's divide.

Referees can't call what's not there (although sometimes they try).

Scoring was far lower in the West through the season, especially at even strength, and teams relied more on special teams to generate goals. Only Teemu Selanne finished in the top 10 in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Western Conference teams scored 3,434 goals this year, while Eastern Conference teams managed 3,648 — an average goals per game difference of 2.79 to 2.97.

Almost all of those extra 200+ goals in the East were scored at even strength or shorthanded:

Goals per game




5 on 5



5 on 4



5 on 3



4 on 4



4 on 3



3 on 3



3 on 4



3 on 5



4 on 5



Empty net



Penalty Sh



















But what about the number of power-play opportunities, you ask?

That doesn't account for the increased reliance on power-play scoring in the West, simply because both conferences had an almost equal number of opportunities on the man advantage: 6,001 for the West to 5,934 for the East, a difference of 0.05 power plays per team per game.

It's much harder, after all, to slow down the neutral zone when you're down a man.

Unfortunately for the Senators, however, the finals aren't a power-play contest, and they've yet to score an even-strength goal in the series.

It's been a different game in the Western Conference this season, one that Ottawa apparently doesn't know how to play.


At 8:31 p.m., May 31, 2007, Anonymous snafu said...

Yes, James, but what about the Ducks against the Wings? You mention how the Ducks played against the Canucks and Wild as the text book example of a style of stymieing hockey. What about the other text book player of defense in the West?

At 3:29 a.m., June 01, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Detroit didn't score an even strength goal against Anaheim during the first two games, either. Is that because they weren't used to the Western Conference game? Or is it because two games is far too few to allow any sort of useful assertions?

At 12:20 p.m., June 01, 2007, Anonymous snafu said...

J. Michael-

Detroit hardly had a chance to score at ES in the first two games. If I remember correctly, the Ducks were pretty undisciplined and DID get called for penalties that don't seem to be penalties the further you get into the playoffs.... all due respect to TB, of course.

At 10:40 p.m., June 01, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

There were a total of 23 power plays during the first two games of the Detroit/Anaheim series. There were a total of 19 power plays during the first two games of the finals. This means that there were probably around an additional eight minutes played not at even strength over the two games due to penalties; this probably overstates the difference, since there were two additional PP goals scored by Detroit than scored by Ottawa, which suggests that the average power play was shorter in the Detroit series.

At the same time, game 2 of the Western Conference finals went 14 minutes into OT. This makes it almost a dead certainty that the Wings went longer without scoring at even strength than Ottawa has, and they whiffed on this greater chance.

At 11:12 p.m., June 01, 2007, Anonymous snafu said...

Are you just adding up the total number of penalties called on the Ducks? Did you consider the distribution of the calls? Where I'm going with this is flow and momentum. If you have large portions of the game at ES, then a cluster of penalties, it has a different feel to it than the parade of penalties (so to speak).

However... yes, I'll say it here too. Too many whiffed opportunities, and a defense that was missing 2 of its most important members.


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