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Kings-Ducks Playoff Preview: Looking at the Ducks Forwards

We all know that the Kings and the Ducks are fabulous and mediocre puck possession teams, respectively. But who are the primary drivers of Anaheim's mediocrity on the ice? In Part 1, we'll take a look at Anaheim's forwards.

DTAW2LN: Don't Trust Anyone With 2 Last Names
DTAW2LN: Don't Trust Anyone With 2 Last Names
Ronald Martinez

You're going to read a lot about Los Angeles' huge puck possession advantage over Anaheim before this series begins, and rightfully so, because it is enormous. LA posted a 56.7% Fenwick percentage (percentage of unblocked shot attempts) and a 57.3% Corsi percentage (percentage of all shot attempts including blocks) when the score was close (tied at any time or within one goal in the first 2 periods). Both ranked first in the league during the 2013-14 regular season, which is certainly nothing new for the Kings; they led both measures in 2012-13 (with a 58% Corsi and a 57.3% Fenwick), and were near the top in 2011-12 (4th in Fenwick with 53.7% and 6th in Corsi with 52.9%), with the team having a noticeable uptick in both after Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray as head coach in January. The point is, the Kings have been a consistently elite puck possession team for three seasons now.

The Ducks, on the other hand, have been quite the opposite. In 2011-12, they were a 48.2% Corsi team (22nd) and 48.1% Fenwick team (21st) when the score was close. In 2012-13, they were a 46.9% Corsi team (24th, so yes they were actually even worse) and a 48.1% Fenwick team (21st and identical); they did have a score close PDO of 102.3, though! Their luck carried them to a totally undeserved Pacific division title in the lockout-shortened season, and as they were already deep into the pangs of regression it is quite likely they would have lost that cushy playoff seed had the schedule been a full 82-game one. Seventh-seeded Detroit did the world a favor and took care of them in the first round anyway, making it something of a moot point.

This year, the Ducks have actually improved quite a bit on both those percentages, though still well below the elite teams (read: LA). Their Corsi with the score close was 49.8% (15th), and their Fenwick was 50.2% (also 15th), taking them from total garbage to, at the very least, mediocre-to-average. Perhaps the most amazing part of their season, however, was their score close PDO actually going up from the 48-game schedule to an 82-game one, as they finished with a 103.4 PDO, easily first in the league and a full seven tenths ahead of 2nd place Boston. PDO, if you're not aware, is the combined shooting and save percentages, with any number much higher or lower than 100 generally indicating a team getting lucky or unlucky, respectively. So the Ducks improved their possession numbers from last season from "bad" to merely "average", while their luck got significantly better. That's a good formula for another strong regular season, and the Ducks once again finished with a Pacific division title.

So as we've established, the Ducks are an okay team getting exceptionally lucky. Many thought their luck would run out against the Stars, but instead here they are in the 2nd round, getting ready to host their SoCal rivals from Los Angeles on Saturday night. Let's transition now from the macro level to the micro and discuss the skaters the Ducks will likely ice in that Game 1. Here in Part 1, we'll talk about the Ducks' forwards, with the defensemen to follow in a second post.

The Forwards

(Huge thanks to @Sheng_Peng on Twitter for pointing me to the correct Ducks lines!

I'll be talking about Corsi & Fenwick Rel a lot--this means the Corsi or Fenwick percentage when that player was on the ice vs. when he wasn't on the ice for his team. If someone is -5%, for instance, that means the Ducks were attempting fewer shots when that player was on the ice than they did without him. The opposite holds true for positive. Makes sense, right? Okay, cool.

One last stat we'll talk about is zone start percentage, which is the percentage of starts in the offensive zone compared to the defensive zone. The formula for it is OZ Start % divided by OZ starts + DZ starts. A number above 50% means he's starting more shifts in the offensive zone, while a number below 50% means he's starting more shifts in the defensive zone.

Note: all percentages are from score close situations.)

1st Line

GP Corsi Corsi Rel Fenwick Fenwick Rel PDO ZS%
Matt Beleskey 55 51.1% 1.9% 50.2% 0.4% 105.7 52.7%
Ryan Getzlaf 77 50.6% 0.7% 51.3% 1.2% 104.1 48.8%
Corey Perry 81 52.0% 3.1% 52.7% 3.8% 102.9 51.2%

The Ducks top line is fairly decent in puck possession stats. All three players boasted Corsi and Fenwick percentages above 50% with about average zone starts. Ryan Getzlaf actually started slightly more in the defensive zone and still posted good possession numbers, while Corey Perry was sheltered somewhat and fared well with his minutes. His +3.1% Corsi rel is the 2nd best among Ducks forwards who played at least 62 games. On the other hand, none of these guys really compare to the possession beasts at the top of the LA lineup. Anze Kopitar, for instance, was a 62.6% Corsi (+7.9% rel) and 62.6% Fenwick (+8.6% rel) in score close situations, with a zone start % of 52.1, only slightly higher than Corey Perry's (the Kings, of course, have no regular players under 50% because they started more shifts in the offensive zone than any other team; their lowest ZS% was Robyn Regehr's 51.6%). So basically what I'm saying here is this line is okay, even pretty good for the Ducks, but certainly nothing compared to the top line of the Kings.

The one area they did exceed in was luck, as you can see from those PDOs. While it's highly likely that Getzlaf and Perry are driving on-ice shooting percentages, that certainly doesn't explain those sky-high PDO ratings alone.

This is a good line that the Kings will need to shut down. If anyone on the Ducks comes out okay in puck possession it will probably be them, but even a direct power-on-power matchup of Kopitar vs. Getzlaf should end up heavily favoring the Kings. One last little note: the original lines I was looking at had Nick Bonino on LW instead of Matt Beleskey, but Beleskey is back on the top line in practice after just returning from injury. It's a weird situation because Bonino's Corsi is better, but his Fenwick is worse. Also, Beleskey played slightly more sheltered minutes than Bonino did.

2nd Line

GP Corsi Corsi Rel Fenwick Fenwick Rel PDO ZS%
Teemu Selanne 64 50.4% 0.1% 51.2% 0.7% 101.5 55.2%
Mathieu Perreault 69 51.2% 1.6% 50.8% 0.9% 100.7 53.6%
Patrick Maroon 62 54.3% 5.5% 53.5% 3.7% 104.7 55.6%

This is a weird 2nd line. Call it "Teemu and the Kids", I guess. First of all, Patrick Maroon had a great season in all the possession metrics. He easily lead the team in Corsi rel among forwards (and all Ducks skaters) with at least 62 GP; in fact the only people who finished above him played just 6, 2, and 26 games each, respectively. In Fenwick rel he was a little further down, slightly behind Corey Perry among others, but still very respectable. Perreault was pretty decent in both Corsi & Fenwick for the Ducks, while Selanne was basically right about average in Corsi and slightly better than that in Fenwick. This is a pretty decent second line, but only Maroon really excelled in more sheltered minutes than the 1st line got, so again, nothing to be too worried about either.

3rd Line

GP Corsi Corsi Rel Fenwick Fenwick Rel PDO ZS%
Jakob Silfverberg 52 51.3% 0.6% 51.2% 0.8% 101.7 49.9%
Saku Koivu 65 45.7% -5.7% 45.2% -6.7% 102.7 44.7%
Andrew Cogliano 82 48.8% -1.4% 48.1% -2.9% 102.2 48.7%

Ah, here we see where the Ducks' forward depth starts to get a little bit thin. Having Silfverberg, who was injured for more than a quarter of the regular season, might help a bit, but both Koivu and Cogliano had tough years in puck possession. Granted, they both started more in the defensive zone than any other forwards we've seen so far, but neither did well with their tough assignments, both lagging well behind Anaheim's top six (especially Koivu). If the Kings are going to exploit any of the Ducks' forwards and keep them pinned back in their own zone for prolonged periods more than the rest of them, you would think it would be this line. The best part is strong PDO numbers for Koivu and Cogliano may have helped hide their flaws from Anaheim's coaching staff.

4th Line

GP Corsi Corsi Rel Fenwick Fenwick Rel PDO ZS%
Devante Smith-Pelly 19 43.7% -6.3% 45.9% -5.8% 109.7 60.2%
Nick Bonino 77 50.4% 0.5% 52.3% 2.1% 106.9 50.3%
Daniel Winnik 76 48.9% -1.4% 48.8% -2.6% 102.4 48.3%

Smith-Pelly only played 19 games in the regular season so take those numbers with a grain of salt, but with that said they are quite terrible. He had one of the highest zone start percentages on the team, starting 35.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone compared to just 23.3% of his shifts in the defensive end, but still posted awful possession numbers. His sky-high PDO is more fun with small sample sizes, as it's almost 110, high even for the lucksacky Ducks. Daniel Winnik, on the other hand, played 76 games and was below-average, although he did start slightly more in the defensive zone at least. Still, not good numbers. The lone bright spot here is Nick Bonino, who is basically an average Corsi player and an above-average Fenwick performer with almost exactly average zone starts. He'll have his work cut out for him to keep this line even just treading water; one could easily envision the Mike Richards-led 4th line running over this line if matched up against them, just as they did against San Jose's own weak 4th line.

Extra Forwards
(Note: Palmieri took his line rushes in practice as an alternate to Maroon on the 2nd line, while Etem took his rushes as an alternate to Winnik on the 4th.)

GP Corsi Corsi Rel Fenwick Fenwick Rel PDO ZS%
Kyle Palmieri 71 47.5% -4.1% 49.2% -2.2% 107.1 51.7%
Emerson Etem 29 45.9% -4.3% 46.6% -4.1% 104.6 55.2%

If these are going to be Anaheim's healthy scratches, I can't say I really blame them. Both players were quite bad in puck possession even while playing sheltered minutes (Etem's especially). If you see either one of them get into the lineup, either later in the series or as a surprise start in Game 1, it's probably a good thing for the Kings.

That's all for now. In Part 2, we'll discuss how the Ducks' defensemen did with regards to the same possession metrics. Here's a special sneak preview: Not Good.