NHL Playoff Predictions: Anaheim vs. Calgary

Do you smell it? No, not the fresh cut grass of your neighbours’ lawn, or uhh, other scents of the Spring season, but instead, can you smell the playoffs? No, not literally of course, especially if you reside west of the Rocky Mountains and have forgotten what that may smell like, but what I’m trying to get at here is that it is the second week of April and it’s time for some meaningful NHL hockey. The playoffs start in a few days, and here are some breakdowns of the first round series’, starting with the Anaheim Ducks vs. the Calgary Flames.

PACIFIC DIVISION

  1. ANAHEIM DUCKS vs. WC1 CALGARY FLAMES

ANAHEIM:
46-23-13 105 PTS (6th overall in the NHL)
Goals For: 223 (17th)
Goals Against: 200 (3rd)
Last 10: 8-0-2 (4 Game Winning Streak)

CALGARY:
45-33-4 94 PTS (15th overall in the NHL)
Goals For: 226 (16th)
Goals Against: 221 (14th)
Last 10: 4-6-0

11 points separate the two clubs, and also 9 spots overall in the NHL standings, even though the Ducks only won 1 more game than the Flames. Those 10 extra losses in regulation were the difference. The two teams scored a similar amount of goals, but the goaltending of John Gibson (and to a lesser extent, his backup Jonathan Bernier) propelled Anaheim to 1st in the division and Gibson is a large reason why the Ducks finished hot to end the season.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

ANAHEIM:
Power Play – 18.7% (17th)
Penalty Kill – 84.7% (4th)

CALGARY:
Power Play – 20.1% (11th)
Penalty Kill – 81.6% (12th)

If the Flames had any chance to win a series in these playoffs, it would have been because of their stronger-than-average special teams. Scoring on one-in-every-five attempts, Calgary could have used that to their advantage against any other Western Conference opponent, but happened to run into the 2nd best PK in the West (we’ll get to St. Louis later). The Flames may be able to contain Anaheim’s subpar Power-Play, but if they want to have any chance in stealing this series away, they need to find a weakness in the Ducks PK.
Advantage: ANA

GETTING THE PUCK ON NET:

ANAHEIM:
Shots For – 29.6/game (23rd)
Shots Against – 29.6/game (10th)
Shooting % – 9.1% (16th)

CALGARY:
Shots For – 29.1/game (24th)
Shots Against – 28.7/game (8th)
Shooting % – 9.3% (14th)

If this is any indication, these are going to be very close games. Calgary has a big of an advantage, but these numbers suggest that these teams match up closer than their standings suggest.
Advantage: CGY

HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Nov. 6th – 4-1 ANA
Dec. 4th – 8-3 CGY
Dec. 29th – 3-1 ANA
Apr. 2nd – 4-3 ANA
Apr. 4th – 3-1 ANA

INJURIES:

ANAHEIM:
Cam Fowler – Out 2-6 weeks (Knee)
Patrick Eaves – Missed last game, but ready for Game 1 per coach Randy Carlyle
Nick Ritchie – Suspended for Game 1, back for Game 2

CALGARY:
Chad Johnson – Day-to-Day (Lower body)

SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES PST):
Game 1: Thursday, April 13th @ 7:30 PM (CBC, NBCSN)
Game 2: Saturday, April 15th @ 7:30 PM (CBC, NBCSN)
Game 3: Monday, April 17th @ 7:00 PM (CBC, NBCSN)
Game 4: Wednesday, April 19th @ 7:00 PM (CBC, USA)
Game 5: Friday, April 21st @ TBD*
Game 6: Sunday, April 23rd @ TBD*
Game 7: Tuesday, April 25th @ TBD*
*If necessary

Frederik Andersen, Brandon Pirri

FINAL THOUGHTS:

On paper, the Anaheim Ducks (the 1st seed) are expected to run rampant over the Calgary Flames (the wild card team). Anaheim is coming into the series as the hottest team in the NHL, having not lost a game in regulation since March 10th. They were one of the best defensive teams in the league, and are relatively injury free, although having lost Cam Fowler for the next few weeks will be a tough loss. The Ducks have also handled the Flames well in their season series, with the only blip being an 8-3 loss in December.

On the other hand, if there is a team to upset the Ducks in the first round, it will be these Calgary Flames. They play a tough game, much like a younger version of these same Ducks, and can get under your skin and knock you off your game. The Flames as underdogs are a scary thought for Anaheim, and they need to be careful not to take them too lightly. The Flames aren’t as deep as the Ducks, but if Anaheim takes more penalties than necessary, they could be in trouble.

Although I would love to give the Flames this series, I believe that the Ducks will continue their hotness (although they’ll lose game 1) and beat the Flames in 6 games.

*All stats courtesy of http://www.hockey-reference.com

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