NHL Playoffs 2016: Who do the Sharks want in round two?
Secondary question: Does it even matter?
The Sharks beating the Kings in five games comes with a variety of benefits. For starters, I'm writing this post now and not consumed by anxiety ahead of what would have been game six tonight. Secondly, and probably more importantly, San Jose gets to rest up while Nashville and Anaheim beat the crap out of each other in what I hope will be a seven-game series.
Anaheim seemed the preferable opponent in round one (at least, in my opinion) but does that hold true for the second round? While the Ducks fell behind 0-2 to the Predators, they've rattled off three straight wins and look to absolutely be the better team. Looking beyond their first round series, the Ducks have been the better team for most of the season.
A slow start, thanks to an abysmally low shooting percentage, was more than overcome in the second half of the season as Anaheim stormed from behind to win the Pacific. So let's look at both teams through a few statistical categories before the final verdict.
The Kings were, by far, the best possession team in the NHL this season. Right behind LA? Nashville and Anaheim. The Predators 5v5, score-adjusted fenwick-for percentage of 53.7 stood just a tenth of a percentage point above Anaheim's 53.6. We'll call that a wash.
Anaheim holds the edge here with a 5v5 save percentage of .922. That matches San Jose's mark and beats Nashville's .919. Those numbers, of course, include backup netminders we're not all that likely to see in the postseason. Anaheim started John Gibson for games one and two of its first round series before switching to Frederik Andersen.
The two split time for the Ducks this year and Andersen had, by far, the better numbers. His even strength save percentage of .929 easily tops Gibson's .921. If the Ducks close out the Predators, expect Andersen to start in goal. For Nashville, it's the Pekka Rinne show. His poor season (.917 ESV%) played a part in getting Nashville a wild card spot instead of the third seed in the central.
This one is pretty easy. In terms of rate stats, Anaheim had the best power play and penalty kill entering the playoffs. For the sake of comprehensiveness, let's look at the shots created and prevented by the Ducks' special teams players.
This chart from hockeyviz.com shows 5v4 shots on the x-axis and 4v5 shots against in the y-axis. Top-right: Good. Bottom-left: Bad. Cool? Cool.
Anaheim's shot generation on the power play is absolutely ludicrous, while their shot prevention on the penalty kill isn't anything to write home about. Still, both of those marks easily top San Jose's numbers, let alone Nashville's. This doesn't seem like much of a debate.
Anaheim is the better team and has a 77 percent chance of closing out the series according to hockeyviz.com. It's not the preferable option for San Jose, but the Sharks have a great chance of beating either team in a seven-gamer series. But we'll get into that once we know who they're playing. For now, I'm rooting for a seven-game series.
[POLL] Who do you want to see in the second round?— Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) April 24, 2016