Friday, May 01, 2009

Your Peerless Prognostos for Round Two -- Detroit (1) vs. Anaheim (4)

Next up in this look at round two – Detroit and Anaheim…

Why Detroit can’t lose…

They’re better. They scored more (3.52 goals-per-game to 2.90), had a higher goal-per-game differential (+0.59 to +0.03), were better 5-on-5 (1.20 to 1.09), had a better power play (25.5 percent to 23.6), had a better record when scoring first, when trailing first, when leading after one period, when outshooting opponents, when being outshot by opponents. They have the better top-end players (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom). They have the best home record of any team left in the West, no small consideration, given they have home ice advantage.

Why Detroit can’t win…

They can’t kill penalties. They had the worst penalty killing record of any team in the playoffs (78.3 percent). Even against as offensively challenged a team as the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, they killed only 10 of 13 shorthanded situations (76.9 percent – 13th of 16 playoff teams in the first round and worst of any surviving team). You have to think this goes hand-in-glove with the question mark they have in goal. Even though Chris Osgood had a fine first round (4-0, 1.75, .936), there is that 3.09 GAA and .887 save percentage he’s carrying out of the regular season to have in the back of one’s mind.

The Peerless’ Player to Ponder

Johan Franzen

Franzen was the Wings’ leading scorer in the Columbus series (2-4-6, +4 in the four-game sweep). “The Mule” is going to find the going somewhat harder in this series, given Anaheim’s penchant for physical play. He had three goals in three games against Anaheim this season and four in the last four games he’s played against the Ducks.

Why Anaheim can’t lose…

Since enduring a three game losing streak to open the month of March, Anaheim is 15-5-1, including a 4-2 series win over President’s Trophy winner San Jose. This is a battle-tested group for whom the players who need to perform did just that in the first round against the Sharks. Of the top eight scorers in the opening round series, six were members of the Cup-winning team in 2007, another (Ryan Whitney) played on a Cup finalist, and there is the precocious youngster Bobby Ryan, who had four goals in the opening round series.

Why Anaheim can’t win…

Their penalty killing was almost as bad in the regular season as was Detroit’s (79.7 percent, 23rd in the league and 15th among 16 playoff teams). While they picked it up in the first round (83.3 percent), they still ranked in the lower half of the 16 teams in the first round and have the second worst (to Detroit) mark of eight teams heading into the second round.

The Peerless’ Player to Ponder

Jonas Hiller

Here is a goalie who one might say has exploded onto the scene, but that would be less a reflection of Hiller’s performance dating back to the regular season than perhaps a case of “East Coast bias.” He doesn’t get the attention he might if he played in markets that aren’t in bed by the time he steps onto the ice. You can’t say he accumulated his numbers (1.64, .957, two shutouts) against a patsy in the first round, San Jose’s long history of premature playoff exits notwithstanding. One might be inclined to say that Detroit poses a different sort of challenge – they have the puck all the time. But San Jose actually led all playoff teams in the first round in total shots-per-game (38.3). Detroit was second (35.0). It means Hiller has to be just as sharp in this round as in Round 1 for the Ducks to advance.

In the end…

No lack of experience here. We have the last two Cup winners going at it, so it shouldn’t necessarily be a mistake fest. But therein lies the key, perhaps. The mistakes on the part of each team might be so infrequent that their occurrence takes on even greater importance. And if those mistakes are made, which team has the wherewithal to make amends before a goal is scored or has the resiliency to rebound from having given up a cheap tally? The teams might be just about even in that respect, too, so this series might come down to a simple war of style. While Detroit does have some players who can fight and scrap for position, they are going to be viewed as the “prettier” team. While Anaheim has a reputation as a roughhousing bunch, they have considerable talent. This time of year, we go with the team with the ability to get that extra inch both are clawing to get, a point that might be especially important, give that one of Detroit's scrappers -- Kris Draper -- will miss game one and two.

Anaheim in 7

No comments: