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Comparing the Flames and Ducks statistically through the regular season

Statistically, the Anaheim Ducks are superior. That's kinda happened to the Flames all year, though. What do the numbers really say?

The Flames will probably find the Ducks to be much more difficult competition.
The Flames will probably find the Ducks to be much more difficult competition.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

With each playoff round, the competition goes up, or so you would at least expect. In the Calgary Flames' case, that's definitely a true statement. While the Flames matched up rather well against the Vancouver Canucks - that is to say, they were only beaten by them a little statistically, not dominated - the Anaheim Ducks are a whole other story.

There's a reason the Ducks won both the Pacific and the West, after all. And they're a team that only got better after the trade deadline. So while the numbers said the Flames had a fighting chance against the Canucks, against the Ducks, it's going to be a lot tougher.

Let's take a look at the regular season numbers for both teams. Why just the regular season when there are two separate playoff series full of data to look at? Because the regular season numbers will give a better indication of just what each team is capable of. The playoffs are more recent, but they're also tiny, isolated sample sizes. Put bigger trust in the 82 games of data, not the four or six, where luck can rule the way.

That's not to say luck won't rule the way once again in round two; more that the team with the better numbers is more likely to benefit from it. Let's go in:

The basics

Calgary Flames Anaheim Ducks
Regular season records
45-30-7
(97 points)
51-24-7 
(109 points)
Home
23-13-5
(51 points)
26-12-3
(55 points)
Away
22-17-2
(46 points)
25-12-4
(54 points)
Overtime records
13-7 16-7
Goals for
241 236
Goals against
216 226
Goal differential
+25 +10
Goals per game
2.89 2.78
Goals against per game
2.60 2.70
Shooting percentage
10.5% 9.3%
Save percentage
91.1% 90.7%
Faceoff percentage
47.4% 51.6%
Offensive zone starts
47.9% 50.0%

The Flames scored more goals. The Flames had fewer goals against. They capitalized on more of their shots, and had better goaltending. You can point to things like this to give you hope; after all, the entire point of the game is to score more goals than your opponent, and just by looking at those stats, the Flames hold the advantage. They're better at that part of the game.

That's only a part of the game, though. After all, despite this, the Ducks had the better record. They're better on faceoffs, meaning they're more likely to control the puck from the onset of play. They were able to start more often in the offensive zone, meaning they very well may have more opportunities to be closer to the Flames' net rather than vice versa.

It's going to be tricky. After all, despite the Flames' superior scoring and goal prevention stats, over five regular season games, they only scored 18 to the Ducks' 21.

The Ducks did enough to take control away from Calgary.

Puck possession

Calgary Flames Anaheim Ducks
Shots per game
27.5 30.0
Shots against per game
29.2 28.9
Corsi for
46.8% 51.1%
Fenwick for
45.7% 51.6%
Scoring chances for
45.1% 52.2%
PDO
101.6 99.9

This is where things start to take a turn for the worse. While the Flames had inferior, but not by much, numbers against the Canucks, the Ducks have already started taking this and running.

The basic rundown for any of you new to all this:

  • Corsi = shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots
  • Fenwick = shots on goal + missed shots
  • PDO = on-ice SH% + on-ice SV%, very roughly defined as "luck" as over the course of an entire season, a team's PDO should regress to 100.0

That thing about the Ducks taking control away from Calgary? It's going to be an issue. They had more shots on net per game in the regular season than the Flames; this implies that while the Flames were more efficient in their shooting, the Ducks didn't have to rely on that. Volume was their friend. And at absolute worst: if you're the one shooting the puck, the opposition doesn't have the chance to score.

Which, speaking of, the Ducks prevented more shots going against their net as well. This speaks to the Flames' greater save percentage: it's higher up because they were forced to stop more shots.

Worse yet for the Flames are the possession stats. While Vancouver was a bad team that was out-possessed, just like Calgary, that is not the case with Anaheim. Anaheim's +50%s in corsi, fenwick, and scoring chances does not bode well for the Flames at all. For Anaheim to achieve those numbers over the course of 82 games, it means they have the puck on their sticks more often than not. The Flames, meanwhile, have very subpar numbers. Even their efficiencies in the scoring chance department may not help them.

In order for the Flames to make it past the Ducks, they'll probably need even more luck on their side. It's doable, but having to rely on things going more your way is never a good sign.

Penalties

Calgary Flames Anaheim Ducks
PIM per game
7.6 10.8
PP time
435:04 397:13
PK time
311:56 446:16
PP minus PK time
+123:08 -49:03
PP%
18.8 15.7
PK%
80.6 81.0

Just like against Vancouver, the tide starts to turn a bit in Calgary's favour when it comes to special teams.

While the first round of the playoffs doesn't show as extreme a trend as 82 regular season games did, it's still consistent: the Flames tend to take fewer penalties than they themselves draw, while the Ducks are magnets for giving the other team the man advantage. They were only slightly more disciplined than the Canucks were.

However, as we saw in the first round, what was true in the regular season is not necessarily going to translate to the postseason, as the Flames really did take their share of penalties against the Canucks.

The saving grace? Anaheim had a rather poor regular season powerplay, so should the Flames find themselves in penalty trouble, they may be able to escape the two minutes just fine. At the same time, the Ducks somewhat corrected that in their series against the Jets, with a playoff powerplay at 27.3% success - just below Calgary's 27.8%.

Still, it's something. And with the Ducks having the better penalty kill, it could turn out to be important.

If the Ducks lose their heads, it's crucial the Flames don't respond in kind.

All situations

Calgary Flames Anaheim Ducks
Goals for
5v5: 152
PP: 44
SH: 5
5v5: 157
PP: 37 
SH: 6
Goals against
5v5: 154
PP: 3
SH: 36
5v5: 148
PP: 6
SH: 49
Shooting percentage
5v5: 8.9%
PP: 12.4%
PK: 9.6%
5v5: 8.3%
PP: 10.4%
PK: 6.8%
Save percentage
5v5: 92.2%
PP: 94.8%
PK: 85.1%
5v5: 91.9%
PP: 90.0%
PK: 85.1%
Corsi for
5v5: 44.4%
PP: 87.7%
PK: 13.3%
5v5: 51.2%
PP: 89.4%
PK: 16.1%
Fenwick for
5v5: 45.7%
PP: 86.2%
PK: 14.5%
5v5: 51.7%
PP: 86.9%
PK: 19.4%
Scoring chances for
5v5: 45.1%
PP: 87.0%
PK: 15.4%
5v5: 52.2%
PP: 87.3%
PK: 21.8%
PDO
5v5: 101.1
PP: 107.2
PK: 94.7
5v5: 100.2
PP: 100.4
PK: 92.4

There's a pretty big gap between the Ducks' and Flames' even strength play, and it's a problem for the Flames, what with most of the game being played at even strength and all. The Flames have the advantage in shooting and save percentages, but after that, everything goes the Ducks' way.

The fact that the Ducks, like the Canucks, take a lot of penalties may once again have to be the Flames' saving grace, especially with the gap in their even strength play. The Ducks may control the puck better on special teams, but the gap isn't nearly as great, and the Flames, quite simply, have had more tangible success in those situations.

Despite all the numbers pointing against the Flames, the Ducks are still totally beatable. But it is going to be a much tougher test. To take the series, Calgary is going to have to play much smarter and much harder, capitalize off of the bounces, and outwork Anaheim as much as possible.

Whatever happens, though, the Flames even making it to the second round in this year of all years is a massive achievement.

Just imagine if they can go one step further, though. The odds are against them, but when are they not?