After a grueling battle to the very last weekend of the regular season, the Anaheim Ducks landed at the top of the loaded Western Conference and earned a date with the previously playoffs-starved Dallas Stars. It is a meeting of old Pacific Division foes, with the Stars now moved into the Central Division. While it is technically like a 1-8 matchups of the old playoff format, the Stars are no pushover.
This has the potential to be an awfully interesting series as it features two duos among the top 10 scorers in the NHL. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry bring a combined 169 points to the series for the Ducks, while Dallas will counter with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn and their 164 points. That's just plain fun.
The Ducks, despite all of their success this season, are not without their detractors. A league-leading PDO of 1034 has a lot to do with that. That metric combines a team's shooting percentage and save percentage which is a way of measuring a team's good fortune. Though not the rule, often a team's PDO will eventually regress to 1000. That makes projecting the Ducks for the playoffs difficult. It is highly possible they could continue this trend, but it is not really safe to assume so. That said, they still look better on paper than their first-round counterparts.
The Stars, meanwhile, have a solid netminder in Kari Lehtonen and the aforementioned Benn and Seguin. After that, though, there's not a ton of depth and that could be the undoing of this team. They still play a pretty exciting brand of hockey and it would be fair to expect them to give the Ducks all they can handle.
Another interesting wrinkle is that the Stars allow quite a few shots with a relatively young defense. Stephane Robidas was traded by Dallas to Anaheim in a deal that essentially helped the Stars get rid of an expiring contract, while really helping the Ducks shore things up defensively. Could this come back to bite Dallas?
With such exciting offensive players in this series, you really never can quite tell what will happen, but it's going to be a lot of fun to watch.
ANA Offense vs. DAL Defense
The Ducks have two big scorers on their team with Perry and Getzlaf, but the responsibility to score does not rest with them alone. That is a big difference between the two teams. Anaheim has more depth at forward and can get contributions from more of its lines. Nick Bonino, Mathieu Perreault and Andrew Cogliano are all over 40 points this year as well. Throw in two 30-point defensemen in Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm and the Ducks have some contributitons from all over.
Dallas has been allowing an average of 30.4 shots per game this season, which was good for 18th in the league, while Anaheim is generating about 31.6 shots on goal per game. Even though Anaheim's high shooting percentage could regress in the tighter-played playoffs, they have enough guys to put the puck in the net to have a decided advantage here. If Getzlaf and Perry get going, and they should be able to in this matchup, Anaheim becomes really difficult to beat.
DAL Offense vs. ANA Defense
Benn and Seguin make the Stars go, there's no question. They both play on the same line and have great chemistry. As good as they are, it's hard to know if they could do it by themselves if they had to. They are the only forwards over 40 points on the roster this season and only two with more than 17 goals. If Anaheim can shut them down, Dallas may not have enough depth to recover.
The Ducks defense boasts experienced defensemen like Francois Beauchemin and Stephane Robidas to go along with younger, but skilled blue liners like Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. That group may not strike fear into opposing teams, but they're good enough to get the job done.
It's hard to see where either team has a clear advantage in this matchup though, but if Benn and Seguin get going as they have at times this year, they give Dallas a chance.
The fact that there is a legitimate debate being had about which goaltender the Ducks should start, Jonas Hiller, Frederik Andersen or John Gibson, doesn't exactly breed confidence. All three goaltenders are capable, with Hiller actually having solid NHL experience, including in the postseason.
Hiller has been off and on this season and his .911 save percentage certainly isn't anything to write home about. Meanwhile, Andersen has a .923 mark in 28 appearances in his first NHL season and Gibson is coming off of second star of the week honors after making his NHL debut and posting a .954 save percentage through his first three appearances.
Kari Lehtonen, meanwhile, is a proven veteran who has maintained a save percentage of .919 this season. He only has two playoff games under his belt, oddly enough. That's what will happen when you begin your career with the Atlanta Thrashers, I suppose.
He is likely going to see a lot of shots, but he has the potential to steal games for this team if they need him to.
With Dallas having a solid No. 1 ready to go, you have to give them the nod here.
Neither team has been spectacular on special teams this year. Anaheim's power play was 22nd in the league, while Dallas' was 23rd with only 0.1 percent separating the two squads on the man advantage.
When it comes to the PK, the Ducks have been slightly better with a kill rate of 82.2 percent, which ranked 13th in the league. The Stars were 21st in the league when it came to penalty killing, with a success rate of 81.4 percent. Anaheim found themselves shorthanded 270 times this season, seven more than the Stars.
We'll call this one a push.
|(1) Anaheim Ducks vs.|
(WC2) Dallas Stars
|Wed Apr 16||10 ET||Anaheim||NBCSN, TSN|
|Fri Apr 18||10 ET||Anaheim||NBCSN, TSN|
|Mon Apr 21||9:30 ET||Dallas||NBCSN, TSN|
|Wed. Apr 23||8 ET||Dallas||CNBC, TSN|
|*Fri Apr 25||10:30 ET||Anaheim||NBCSN, TSN|
|*Sun Apr 27||TBD||Dallas||TBD, TSN|
|*Tue Apr 29||TBD||Anaheim||TBD, TSN|
|* if necessary|