Friday, April 21, 2006


Flames vs. Ducks: Go time

I'll get this out of the way right off the bat: I'm picking the Flames over the Ducks in 5. I expect Calgary to win both of the first two games; one of two in Anaheim; and Game 5 at home.

I make this prediction with as much confidence as I can muster, given the nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs (the Red Wings, a legitimate clear favourite, are barely a 1-in-5 shot to actually win the big trophy). And I don't particularly care if the Flames win in 4, 5, 6, or 7: certainly my joy at seeing a Game 7 victory would far outweigh any embarrassment caused by my prediction (or what follows...).

I think the Flames are the better team, but specifically, I just don't think Anaheim will beat Calgary at home. I'll confess that generally come playoff time, I'm wary of teams with great home records and weak road records like the Flames. First of all, there's the fairly uncontroversial idea that the "adrenalin advantage" of the home team is somewhat neutralized in the playoffs; the road team tends to match the homer's intensity, whether that's because It's The Playoffs, or because the loud home crowd actually gives a jolt to both teams.

But I also have this notion, not supported by statistics (or contradicted by them as far as I know), that this advantage (that is neutralized in the playoffs) applies mainly to the offensive end. I don't want to go into much more detail on this, mainly because I've essentially pulled it out of my rear, but think about every regular season game you've attended: the crowd gets more excited during a 2-on-1 for than one against.

Which is a long way of bringing up these numbers:
Calgary's Home Goals Against numbers are unbelievable, both the raw number (which amounts to 1.71 GA/gm, and an even lower GAA/60min) and as it relates to their road number. You'll also note that their scoring is the same both home and away.

All this together makes me believe that their Home Ice Advantage is less a matter of attitude (or intensity, or comfort, or crowd noise) than it is a structural advantage, for lack of a better term. In short, as good defensively as Calgary is overall, I think getting the matchups they want, especially against the other team's top scoring line, really cinches it.

In 41 home games this season, the Flames allowed 42 even-strength goals. That is crazy good. And if you check out the Ducks +/- stats on the year, you'll see that the Selanne/ McDonald/ Kunitz line is waaay out in front of the rest of the forwards; the next highest forwards are Getzlaf and Fedoruk at +6.

The Flames need to shut that line down in Calgary, and I think they can. Past that, it's a question of whether the Flames (or hell, just Kipper) can play well enough in Anaheim to take one there. The answer to that is Yes. Get 'er done, boys.


For the record:
Yes, Flames in 5. What he said. They have the post-season STUD factor (Super Human leader guy + brick wall goalie) from 2004, and are healthier and deeper.
Detroit in 5 - the "bad goal" syndrome (Legace version) will hand the Oilers one game. Otherwise, upset pickers - give your heads a shake. This is the same crew that, down the stretch, couldn't convincingly beat the Wild, Blues or Hawks who had nothing to play for, then lost to Detroit when Oilers had everything on the line and Wings nothing, and EDGED the Ducks at home when Anaheim had nothing left to play for. Wow. Quel Juggernaut! Suiting up in Detroit tonight is not the "Alternate Universe, Anything is Possible" Oilers, it's those other guys.
Dallas in 5. Turco will gas one just for the hell of it, but Av's too small and thin.
Nashville in 7. Reality check for Joe Thornton - playoffs are hard! Nashville has been ready since October, Sharks since 3 weeks ago.
ROUND 2 - Detroit over Nashville. It's NASHVILLE, for God's Sake!
Calgary over Dallas - Kipper factor. Over/under on total goals in this series: 9. Iginla gets 3 of them, all game winners. There - that's what they paid him for.
Conference Final: Calgary in 6 - Wings wearing down, Kipper factor. Unlikely hero, Chuck Kobasew.

East: Buffalo or Habs.
CUP: Calgary. Conn Smyth trohpy engraver guy: It's spelt "K-i-p-r-u-s-o-f-f". Get ready.

Full disclosure: Flames fan. Realist. Would be worried if the Jets were in it.

You're, you're a realist all right.

Mud, interesting other stat on that note that I noticed:

The Sabres have a Home G.Dif of +42, Road G.Dif of Nil, yet have a virtually identical record Hm/Rd (27-11-3 vs. 25-13-3). And it's not torqued by a great Road SO record either, which is only 4-3.

I don't think you can look at stats for the Ducks from the end of season, because the team has changed so significantly since the 50 game mark or so. Getzlaf's been at nearly a point a game since then, and Perry's chipping in, too. They'll both be more involved in the offence than Kunitz, although it'll mostly come on the power play.

Flames 1-0!! Hard fought win AND Ducks goaltending mystery! Is JS done? Is Brygalovovleov (sp?) going to have to go all the way? Huge break for the red and white.


Bryzgalov, a.k.a. "Breezy".

No J.S. (and I know hardly anything about any injury) is troublesome for my Ducks, but not necessarily in a tragic way.

I mean, there's no way J.S. could be the same goalie from 2003 (I have my doubts anyone will ever duplicate those numbers), so we were in a downgrade situation anyway.

Even though we lost, it was somewhat encouraging. I felt we controlled most of the game, and we managed to go into a tough building and hit a post in OT. Can't particularly blame Breezy for either of the goals, he was solid enough.

I was very relieved when the Ducks did not surrender two goals in the first minute of the third period, though. That game was starting to look a little familiar (Apr. 11 when Breezy lost to Kipper in Calgary).

Good game, ready for round two tomorrow.

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