Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
The ’Hawks are a better possession team. This is something that gets talked about a lot with the ’Hawks, and that’s because their style is paced by having the puck frequently. It won’t be easy for Chicago to consistently possess the puck against Anaheim, as it often was against Minnesota, but the ’Hawks still have an edge in this department. Over the course of the 82-game regular season, the ’Hawks ranked second among all teams in Corsi-for percentage at 53.6 percent, while the Ducks checked in at 16th with a 51.2 percentage. In these playoffs, however, Anaheim has ratcheted up to 54.4 percent (best among remaining teams). Chicago has dropped to 51.8 percent (third-best among remaining teams).
So have the Ducks hit their stride in these playoffs? Perhaps, but another explanation for the change is Anaheim’s competition in the first two rounds. The Ducks first took on a Winnipeg team that actually wasn’t bad in possession during the regular season, checking in at ninth in the league. You might remember the Jets held leads heading into the third period of the first three games in that series, but lost all of them. Any type of prevent-style defense utilized by the Jets in those games could go a long way to explaining Anaheim’s jump in possession. Then, in the second round, the Ducks drew Calgary. The Flames were an awful possession team in the regular season (ranking 28th), and they continued to be awful in the playoffs, finishing their postseason run at a ridiculous 44.9 percent clip. The Flames didn’t even manage 20 shots in their final playoff game last week, and it went to overtime. So the Ducks had a cozy puck possession draw in that case.
As for the ’Hawks, they’ve faced teams ranked 5th and 17th in regular-season possession percentage in Nashville in Minnesota during these playoffs. They frequently came out ahead of both the Preds and Wild in possession in playoff action, and even when they didn’t, they found ways to win games. With all of that considered, it’s more likely the ’Hawks climb back up to their regular-season Corsi-for percentage mark against the Ducks than Anaheim continuing to play above its 82-game figure against the ’Hawks.
There’s also this: The ’Hawks dominated the Ducks in possession during all three regular-season meetings between the teams. In a 1-0 Ducks win at the United Center in October (during which backup goalie John Gibson stood on his head), the ’Hawks led the Ducks in Corsi 66-44. In a pair of 4-1 Chicago victories at Honda Center in November and January, the ’Hawks posted 64-35 and 60-45 Corsi advantages. And while some will say the personnel have changed for the Ducks since those games (which is true), they have also changed for the ’Hawks. Of the players we can expect in each lineup for Game 1 (not including goaltenders), this is how many played in each regular-season meeting between the squads:
Oct. 28, 2014: Ducks 14, ’Hawks 13
Nov. 28, 2014: Ducks 13, ’Hawks 13
Jan. 30, 2015: Ducks 16, ’Hawks 15
When you add to the mix Antoine Vermette, who has been one of the ’Hawks’ better possession players this postseason, it spells real good news for Chicago.