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Blackhawks-Flyers and the stats through Game 5

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After watching the 'Hawks appear to decimate the Flyers in Game 5, I couldn't help but think that the last few games had seemed so different from the beginning of the series.  The 'Hawks just seemed more aggressive with the puck and appeared to control the play more.  Now if I was a TV announcer, I would have just declared my opinion to be the truth.  But much to Don Cherry's eternal hatred, I decided to look into a few stats to either prove my intuition or realize that I'm delusional.

Analysis after the jump.

All the numbers here are taken from the official NHL.com gamesheets.

Here are a few of the more pertinent game stats for those of us who believe that directing more shots at the opposition is a great way to win a hockey game.

A couple things stick out at first glance.  For starters, the save percentage is all over the place for both teams, and neither one is particularly flattering.  Secondly, the Blackhawks have absolutely dominated the faceoffs over the course of the series, which has to translate into mroe possession.

Also, if we were evaluating offensive output the way most people traditionally do, using shots, then it would appear that the Blackhawks only got a bit better over game 4 and 5.  But if we used Corsi and Fenwick numbers to evaluate shots directed towards goal, it tells a different story.

By adding up the 'Hawks shots, shots that were blocked and shots that missed the net, we get a better picture of how many pucks were directed at the Flyers net.  Game 1 was only 46, Game 2 was 52, Game 3 was 62, Game 4 was 77 and Game 5 was 62.  Frankly, they were on a different level in games 3-5 than in games 1 and 2.  Now obviously none of this matters if the Flyers were also putting more pucks towards goal.

Also, since Corsi and Fenwick ratios have shown to be strongly correlated to winning in the NHL over the long-term, what were the results for Chicago?  Here is a summary from Chicago's point of view.

While Chicago's possession ratios (Corsi & Fenwick) show a marked improvement, it hasn't been a very strong correlation to wins in the series.  However, the difference in Save % between Chicago and Philly has.

This should come as no surprise given the extreme swings in save percentage.  In the NHL this season, Tuuka Rask led the league with a 93.1% stop rate while Mikka Kiprusoff was 10th with 92.0% and Dwayne Roloson was 30th with 90.7%.  From the best goaltender to the 30th-best, was only a 2.4% difference.  In the course of an 82 game season, that 2.4% edge can be made up by "outshooting" an opponent. 

In a short series, where every game counts, a major swing in either one can be an absolute game-changer.  This is the reason why many "experts" will tout the fact that a hot goalie can carry a team in the playoffs.  If you need an further explanation, I believe I ranted about it enough after the Montreal-Washington series.

This series may not be a case of one goalie harnessing the powers of the hockey gods, but rather which goalie doesn't suck on any given night.  Obviously repeated shot attempts at goal will help, but with two below-replacement goalies at their disposal, the Flyers are outmatched in net by Niemi, despite the fact he only finished 20th in Save Percentage this season.

The Blackhawks surging possession game may still be the deciding factor in one of the final two games, but for now their fortune seems to rest on the less-than-stellar shoulders of either Leighton or Boucher.