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Red Wings vs. Sharks, Second Round Preview

My final Conference Semifinal preview looks at Detroit vs. San Jose, a clash between squads that have held Cup aspirations all year long. Here's what an interactive analysis of offense vs. defense seems to say about what will happen...

For table explanation, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

How the Red Wings can score: Despite being Mike Babcock's team, these Red Wings still outshoot their opponents more often than not, a trend that goes back well over a decade. Looking at the mix of those shots, the expected shot-total margin comes almost entirely from 40 feet out, so look for Nick Lidstrom and Mathieu Schneider to fire early and often. Evgeni Nabokov has been solid for the Sharks so far, and he'll need to keep up that effort to hold the Detroit down.

How the Sharks can score: The Sharks need to rattle Hasek if they're going to keep up with the potent Red Wing attack, as the Dominator is playing like, well, the Dominator right now. With Detroit also doing a good job limiting the number of shots on net, San Jose will have to make the most of the close-range opportunities that their big, strong forwards tend to generate.

Summary: Expecting Nabokov to outplay Hasek is a tall order on its own, but when you add the expected shooting differential between these teams, that task appears insurmountable. The quality and depth of the Detroit attack will keep the momentum of the game in their favor.

Outside the Numbers: Injuries could pose a big problem for Detroit, as some players start the series on the shelf and others are battling through broken hands. Working in their favor, however, is team composure and leadership - there shouldn't be any Nashville-style parades to the penalty box putting the Sharks' dangerous power play out there for extended periods.

Prediction: Detroit in 7 games.

Table Key:
Shots For = average of shots per game by that team, from the range specified.
Shots Factor = a factor representing how many shots the opposing defense yields in that range (1.24 = 24% more than average, 0.89 = 11% less than average).
Exp. Shots = "Shots For" times "Shots Factor", how many shots are expected to occur within each range.
Sht % = The fraction of shots from within that range result in goals.
Sht % Factor = a measure reflecting how the opposing goaltender handles shots from a given range (0.74 = 26% fewer goals than average, 1.53 = 53% more than average)
Exp. Sht % = "Sht %" times "Sht % Factor", the expected shooting percentage for this matchup.
Exp. Goals = "Exp. Shots" times "Exp. Sht %", the number of goals per game expected from each range.
Values indicative of significantly higher goal-scoring are shaded green, values for lower goal-scoring shaded pink.
All figures represent exponential moving averages, giving greater weight to recent performance. Empty-net goals are excluded.

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