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Red Wings vs. Ducks, WCF Preview

The battle for the Clarence Campbell Bowl has come down to the top two seeds in the West, Detroit and Anaheim. I've cranked out the numbers, so let's see who will make it to the Stanley Cup Finals...

How the Red Wings can score: The story with Detroit, as always, is a reliable shooting advantage - the projection is for them to outshoot the Ducks by roughly seven shots per game. Unlike many other matchups, however, these extra shots are coming from close range, medium range, and long range; they're not just taking harmless tosses at the net and hoping for the best. They'll need every shot they get, as J.S. Giguere has been his usual solid self during these playoffs, with a .952 save percentage entering the series, alongside his net-mate Ilja Bryzgalov's .929 mark.

How the Ducks can score: The projections here show that Anaheim's shooting percentage from various ranges is very close to Detroit's, and unless that changes, overcoming the gap in total number of shots would seem to be a daunting task. Note the "Sht % Factor" row in Anaheim's chart, and you'll see that Dominik Hasek has been clamping down on close and midrange shots to a slightly greater degree than even Anaheim's goaltending. Combine that with the limited number of shots that Detroit's allowing (see the "Shots Factor" row), and the Ducks will clearly need to maximize the opportunities that do come their way.

Summary: Toss these two teams together, and you get a gap of 0.40 Goals Per Game in favor of Detroit (2.08 - 1.68).

Outside The Numbers: There are two major factors at play here - the most obvious being the recent injury knocking Red Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider out of the playoffs. Presumably that's going to impact Detroit's performance at both ends of the ice. The other factor is that Anaheim has outperformed these predictions in each of the first two rounds - against Minnesota in the first, my offensive assessment was on the mark, but their defense shut down the Wild more than expected, and against Vancouver in the conference semifinal, they outscored projections, and clamped down on the Canucks offense at the same time. Whether that's due to their numbers being hampered by that unusual stretch when Giguere, Pronger, and Beauchemin were injured at the same time and they went into a temporary tailspin, or whether the Ducks' playing style just adapts better to playoff hockey, I'm not sure. But I'm likely to give them more credit here than this gap would normally indicate.

Prediction: Even with Schneider out, Detroit's blueline out-Norris's Anaheim's with seven trophies to two. I think Chelios plays a solid series picking up some marginal playing time, the goaltenders at both ends play very well, but Detroit's power play makes the difference. Red Wings 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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