Ducks Gameday—the top team in the west (a good sign for the Ducks)

Anaheim Ducks (32-12-8, 2nd in west) at Nashville Predators (36-14-3, 1st in west)

If the playoffs started today, the top 8 teams in the west would be (in order, using conference leaders): Nashville, Anaheim, Calgary, Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, Vancouver, and Minnesota. And currently, 9th & 10th place are six points back of joining this list.

For a way-too-early glimpse into the coming playoffs, here’s a look at how those top 8 teams played only against each other:

Team

Record Win Pct GF/gm GA/gm Diff/gm PP% PK%

Anaheim

14-5-3

.705

3.36

1.95

+1.41

21.4%

87.7%

Detroit

11-8-2

.571

2.48

2.86

-0.38

13.7%

71.3%

San Jose

12-9-1

.568

2.82

2.41

+0.41

20.8%

83.0%

Nashville

8-7-2

.529

3.24

3.24

+0.00

14.9%

74.4%

Dallas

11-10-1

.523

1.91

2.27

-0.36

16.7%

89.7%

Minnesota

12-11-2

.520

2.44

2.64

-0.20

18.8%

85.6%

Vancouver

11-12-1

.479

2.33

3.00

-0.67

14.2%

88.9%

Calgary

9-11-3

.457

2.61

2.74

-0.13

14.9%

79.4%

There's some strange numbers in here, for sure, with lots of asterisks to go around (SJ has scored 13 power play goals against Detroit, for example).

But for the Ducks, indeed it is a strange breakdown, as they are finding it easier to win within this group than they are outside of it (overall they have a .692 win percentage). In fact, aside from power play percentage, each of these Anaheim statistics is better when facing top-8 western competition than when facing the entire league.

Even when the Ducks were injured, this trend continued—if you can believe it, Anaheim went through a month-and-a-half stretch (between 12/14 and 1/30) where its ONLY wins came against Dallas (3x), Detroit, San Jose, and Calgary.

What's it all mean? I dunno, probably that Anaheim is ripe for a playoff upset, but really, it appears that Anaheim is not only primed for the playoffs, but particularly primed for these playoffs against these opponents. Sure anything can happen in a 7-game series, but at this point, you gotta say that barring triple-injury, Ducks should probably be considered favorites in the west.

Certainly, this could all change pretty quickly, as the next four games for Anaheim are @NSH, @SJS, SJS, and @DAL.

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Of course, my main point above was going to be about Nashville, owners of a pretty enviable 16-2-1 record against CBJ / CHI / STL (yes, I'm going there again). It's not that this isn't a commendable feat or anything (heck, the Ducks are 3-2-1 against the set), but really, is that sort of cushion that helpful when all those teams disappear come postseason?

Last season, both Detroit and Nashville utilized a combined 40-5-3 record against these teams to secure their playoff spots, but once there? No division ended up with fewer postseason wins last year than the Central's three—tougher competition demolished them pretty quickly.

Thus far, Nashville has shown an ability to score against these top-8 teams, but their goal prevention is the worst of the set.

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So far this season, the Ducks beat the Preds 4-0 in Anaheim and the Sucks lost in overtime in Nashville 5-4. I can't say I mind that latter result, given how bad Anaheim was playing at the time. How bad, retrospectively, was this team without the Giguere / Beauchemin / Pronger combo?

Pro-rated to an 82-game season, the injured Sucks (using games between 12/29 - 1/19) would project to a 15-52-15 record, good for 45 points, and would have been outscored 216 - 286. Their goal-differential-per-60-minute rates come to +6.85 on the power play, -0.86 at even strength, and -7.00 when shorthanded.

If you look at the 41 other "healthy" games and pro-rate that, the Ducks would have a whopping 60-10-12 record for 132 points, outscoring opponents 284 - 178. Goal-differential-per-60 rates: +8.20 on the power play, +1.02 at even strength, and -4.18 shorthanded.

Even if you don't fully follow those stats, suffice to say that the difference between that 11-game Suck-stretch and the rest of Anaheim's season is astronomical—all thirty teams this year and last will fall within this wide spectrum of pro-rated results. While there is some concern as to the potential to become those Sucks again, it's equally amazing how gaudy the results are when modestly healthy.

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Prediction: Ducks 5, Predators 3. Goals by Thornton, Kunitz (2), Selanne, and of course Sammy P.

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