Apr 18, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) makes a save on Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino (13) in front of Dallas Stars defenseman Kevin Connauton (23) during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Stars lost 3-2 on Friday night to the Anaheim Ducks and come home down 2 games to none. For most teams it would be a dire situation. In fact, in the history of the NHL only 37 out of 291 teams that have fallen behind 2-0 in a series have been able to come back and win. Dire indeed.
Numbers don’t usually lie in sports. But they don’t always tell the whole truth either. The most important number in this series is obviously 2 games to none. But when you dig deeper in to the numbers you begin to see a much rosier picture regarding the Stars play.
In the first game when the Stars fell behind 3-0 in the first period they had a 3% chance of winning the game. When they fell behind 4-0 that number was cut in half. Very dire indeed.
At work the next day a co-worker of mine asked if I had seen the game last night. He knew it was rhetorical and I knew he was trying to poke the bear. He knew I has seen the game and when I confirmed that I had in fact “seen” the game his replay inferred that the Stars had little room on their backside that wasn’t covered in black and blue. I enjoyed a quick smile to myself and said,
“No. Not really.”
Apr 16, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff reacts during game one of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The final score of 4-3 was much more indicative of the game itself. A game in which the shots on goal were dead even at 35. The hits were 27 to 28 in favor of the Ducks, each team had 10 minutes of Power Play time where the Ducks scored twice and the Stars once. Fairly even numbers in statistics that the NHL uses as benchmarks for reporting the action of its games.
When we dig a little deeper we find a different story.
Faceoff percentage. Faceoffs won is a great indicator of success. When you win a faceoff it means that your team has started play with the puck. It’s a bit of a flawed stat because you can win the faceoff and immediately turn the puck over and it still counts as a win but in most instances it indicates one team has dominated possession in critical situations. The Ducks won 46 to the Stars 37 or 52%. Pretty even.
Hits. Hits can tell you who carries the puck more often and therefore has more offensive pressure. Simplified as puck possession, the time your team holds the puck, if you are taking more hits than your opponent it’s because they are trying to get it back by hitting you. There is no need to apply a hit if you have the puck in fact that would be a penalty. So we can surmise that if one team has more hits than the other they spent more time trying to get the puck back. Hits in the game were 28-27 in favor of the Ducks.
Takeaways/Giveaways. These two stats basically tell you how careful your team was with the puck. They are a basic indicator of how “clean” your play was. The more giveaways you have the sloppier you were with the puck. The more takeaways you receive the stronger your defense play was. Giveaways were in favor of the Stars who had 8 to the Ducks 13. Takeaways went to the Ducks at 3-4.
Let’s review the same stats for Game two.
Stars 31 Ducks 30
Stars 28 Ducks 40
Stars 10 Ducks 10
Stars 3 Ducks 7
The Stars lost the game 3-2 after taking a 1-0 lead. Again we find some encouragement in our metrics. The Stars won the faceoff battle. The Ducks had far more hits than the Stars but that shows us that the Stars had the puck WAY more often than the Ducks thus the Ducks need to hit in order to regain possession. The takeaway statistics combined with the hits show that the Ducks spent way more time trying to regain possession from the Stars.
And yet again they lost. Why?
Special teams, goaltending and experience.
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