Kings-Ducks Playoff Preview: Examining the Season Series

Anaheim went 4-0-1 against LA this season. So why are Kings fans so excited?

In the first year of the new playoff alignment, we couldn't have asked for a juicier set of matchups. The Los Angeles Kings ousted the San Jose Sharks with a remarkable comeback, and Kings fans were rewarded with the first playoff Freeway Faceoff... ever. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division this season, and the Kings have been the most successful Pacific Division team in the playoffs for the last few years; it's only fitting that the two teams will play in the first "Pacific Division Finals."

From a momentum standpoint, both teams have reason to be confident. The Kings, of course, did this. The Ducks had a dramatic rally of their own, avoiding a Game 7 with two goals in the final three minutes and an overtime winner in Dallas. So let's go back a little further and look at the season series.

December 3: Los Angeles 3, Anaheim 2 (SO)

Martin Jones' coming out party prevented Jonas Hiller from stealing this game. The Kings attempted 103 shots, easily a season high, but had to tie the game in the third period just to get it to overtime. That's when Jones helped the Kings kill an overtime 5-on-3 before going 9-for-9 in the shootout. Surely, the Kings would get better shooting luck over the rest of the season series!

January 23: Anaheim 2, Los Angeles 1

Well, not during the last couple weeks of January. The Kings were already in one of their patented scoring slumps, but the real issues started with this game at the Honda Center. LA led 1-0 after a dominant first period, but the Ducks fought back in the second and held LA at bay in the third. A disappointing result, but nothing compared to...

January 25: Anaheim 3, Los Angeles 0

... the outdoor game at Dodger Stadium. Enough said.

March 15: Anaheim 2, Los Angeles 1

The Kings won in eight in a row, seven straight out of the All-Star Break, but lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs right before this. That always spells doom, and in this case, the Ducks once again came out on top besides losing the territorial battle. This one was notable for Frederik Andersen's heroics and a dubious goaltender interference which disallowed an apparent game-tying goal.

April 12: Anaheim 4, Los Angeles 3 (SO)

Statistically, it was the teams' most even matchup of the season. Neither team had much to play for, but the teams provided an exciting game, and Anze Kopitar left us with some good memories of this one despite an eventual shootout loss.

The Overall Picture

All right, so let's evaluate these games without checking out the possession stats. The regular season series was plagued with scoring troubles, as LA only scored seven goals in five games excluding that shootout goal from the first game. In some cases (Game 1, Game 4) you could chalk it up to bad luck, but no one who watched the Dodger Stadium game could have possibly thought that the Kings deserved better. There was also plenty of inconsistent goaltending to speak of, as only Martin Jones' first game in net provided an above-average performance.

If we can go off of the Kings' first-round series, those two woes may not trouble LA in Round 2. Jonathan Quick put together four great games in the past week, and the Kings' offense was prolific against Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock. Of course, Marian Gaborik wasn't in black and white for the first three games; he had an assist in the season finale, while he was the scorer of the infamous disallowed goal on March 15. We've also seen more of an offensive impact from Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Mike Richards, and Dustin Brown recently. Will secondary scoring help the Kings?

Okay, we've waited long enough to bring up Corsi and Fenwick. Have a look at the stats over all five games...

Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings Statistics - All Situations

Game # Date Result GF GA CF CA CF% FF FA FF% SF SA SF% Sh% Sv% PDO
29 12/3/2013 Kings 3 at Ducks 2 (SO) 2 2 103 53 66.00% 75 40 65.20% 51 28 64.60% 3.90% 92.90% 96.80%
52 1/23/2014 Kings 1 at Ducks 2 1 2 61 38 61.60% 49 31 61.30% 31 21 59.60% 3.20% 90.50% 93.70%
53 1/25/2014 Ducks 3 at Kings 0 0 3 70 34 67.30% 53 32 62.40% 36 21 63.20% 0.00% 85.70% 85.70%
68 3/15/2014 Ducks 2 at Kings 1 1 2 68 40 63.00% 51 34 60.00% 38 20 65.50% 2.60% 90.00% 92.60%
82 4/12/2014 Ducks 4 at Kings 3 (SO) 3 3 63 49 56.30% 43 37 53.80% 30 24 55.60% 10.00% 87.50% 97.50%
SEASON TOTAL 7 12 365 214 63.04% 271 174 60.90% 186 114 62.00% 3.76% 89.47% 93.23%

... as well as the statistics in 5 vs. 5 Close situations. Possession in close games at even strength is generally a better predictor of future performance and team success than possession in all situations.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings Statistics - 5 vs. 5, Close Situations

Game # Date Result GF GA CF CA CF% FF FA FF% SF SA SF% Sh% Sv% PDO
29 12/3/2013 Kings 3 at Ducks 2 (SO) 1 1 69 28 71.10% 51 22 69.90% 29 17 63.00% 3.40% 94.10% 97.50%
52 1/23/2014 Kings 1 at Ducks 2 1 1 29 17 63.00% 24 13 64.90% 18 9 66.70% 5.60% 88.90% 94.50%
53 1/25/2014 Ducks 3 at Kings 0 0 2 9 5 64.30% 7 5 58.30% 6 4 60.00% 0.00% 50.00% 50.00%
68 3/15/2014 Ducks 2 at Kings 1 0 2 39 25 60.90% 29 22 56.90% 24 13 64.90% 0.00% 84.60% 84.60%
82 4/12/2014 Ducks 4 at Kings 3 (SO) 1 3 43 27 61.40% 28 18 60.90% 19 12 61.30% 5.30% 75.00% 80.30%
SEASON TOTAL 3 9 189 102 64.95% 139 80 63.47% 96 55 63.57% 3.13% 83.64% 86.77%

(all statistics courtesy of Extra Skater)

Check out the PDO column, which shows a team's combined shooting and save percentages and shows what kind of luck a team had against its opponent. A 93.2 PDO (from the first chart) is very unlucky; a 86.8 PDO (from the second) is unheard of. PDO usually regresses to 100 over the long run, and the Kings finished out the 2013-14 season with a 99.8 PDO. In the Kings' first-round series, their PDO was 102.8, and 101.5 at 5 vs. 5 close situations, meaning the Kings were slightly lucky overall. A lot of that was due to the goaltending discrepancy between the two teams.

(Don't put too much stock into the 50.0 PDO at 5 vs. 5 close in the Stadium Series game; that's because the Ducks scored on two of their first four shots, and the game was never again close.)

What's the takeaway? We already know that LA is a superior possession team; it's the reason so many people are picking LA to dethrone the division champs. However, the Kings' lack of scoring was a huge problem in the season series, and any recurrence of that puts LA in danger against Anaheim. The Ducks have been a much better possession team than they were last season, and if they get the same great goaltending or a bit of shooting luck, they can easily take this series. Given how important luck is in the postseason, that outcome is very possible.

In spite of that, there's good reason to be hopeful, and good reason to not be worried about the Kings' 1-3-1 record against the Ducks in the regular season.