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Behind The Numbers

Western Conference contenders can find answers in statistical details

Ducks, Kings, Flames must temper aggression; others need scoring

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

Entering the final 25 days of the 2017-18 NHL season, there are six teams in the Western Conference within a range of four points, three of which will compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For each of these six teams, hockey analytics can identify one key factor that could make the difference in qualifying for the postseason as one of the eight teams from the West.


Anaheim Ducks

Key Factor: Penalty differential

A sixth-straight Pacific Division crown may be out of reach, but the Ducks can still make the playoffs, especially if they can stay out of the penalty box.

The Ducks rank fourth in the NHL with 1,726 hits, but that aggression comes at a price. They have been shorthanded 244 times, third most in the League. The Ducks have been on the power play 191 times, which ranks 29th (third from the bottom). Their minus-94:07 differential is last in the League, 27:02 worse than that Los Angeles Kings.

With 18 minor penalties taken and five drawn, forward Ryan Getzlaf has the worst penalty differential on Anaheim (minus-13).

Video: STL@ANA: Perry taps in Getzlaf's beautiful pass


Calgary Flames

Key Factor: Disciplined aggression

A little fire is what the Flames might need to make the playoffs (no pun intended), combined with increased discipline.

In 2002, hockey statistician Iain Fyffe introduced the Discipline Aggression Proxy as a way of measuring how responsibly teams and players are adding grit. The formula is hits plus takeaways divided by penalty minutes.

With 1,357 hits, 579 takeaways, and a League-high 804 penalty minutes, the Flames are last in the NHL with a DAP of 2.41.

Calgary ranks 27th with 947 blocked shots.


Colorado Avalanche

Key Factor: Ride puck luck

Last season, the Avalanche were responsible for 48.53 percent of shot attempts at 5-on-5, which is 1.01 percent higher than their 47.52 percent this season. However, they finished last in the NHL with 48 points last season and are tied for 12th with 82 points this season.

The difference is in the percentages. Colorado's shooting plus save percentage was a League-low 970 at 5-on-5 last season, but ranks third at 1,018 this season. Because these stats can flip so quickly, the Avalanche need to continue to see the good fortune they have encountered this season to continue.

Video: COL@MIN: MacKinnon scores 11 seconds into the 3rd


Dallas Stars

Key Factor: Scoring depth

The Stars rely heavily on their four top scorers -- Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Jamie Benn and defenseman John Klingberg -- who have combined for 250 points (94 goals, 156 assists) in 71 games.

That's 33 points fewer than the rest of the Stars combined (283 points; 107 goals, 176 assists). The Oilers (269) and the Sabres (251) are the only teams with fewer points outside of their top four scorers. Each is unlikely to make the postseason.

Last season, the Stars had 355 points (142 goals, 213 assists) in 82 games from players outside their top four.


Los Angeles Kings

Key Factor: Penalty killing

The Kings have continued their aggressive playing style under first-year coach John Stevens and rank third in the League with 1,789 hits. That places added emphasis on their penalty kill because the price for the extra physicality has been 252 minor penalties, eighth most in the NHL.

That may be why Los Angeles continues to use its top players to kill penalties, including defenseman Drew Doughty and center Anze Kopitar, who play an average of 2:50 and 2:14 shorthanded minutes per game. The Kings rank second in the NHL on the penalty kill (84.1 percent).


St. Louis Blues

Key Factor: Power-play success

The St. Louis Blues are trying to make the playoffs for the seventh straight season, this time without center Paul Stastny, who was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 26, and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who injured his hip March 3 and is out for the season.

The Blues need to be more effective on the power play but have struggled without man-advantage specialist Kevin Shattenkirk, a defenseman who was traded to the Washington Capitals on Feb. 27, 2017. From Shattenkirk's acquisition from the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 18, 2011 until his departure, the Blues ranked third in the League on the power play (20.4 percent). Since then, they're 29th (16.1 percent).

Video: STL@ANA: Bortuzzo finishes Pietrangelo's sweet dish

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