Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Allen vs Missouri Game Three Preview, Playoff Update and Home Ice Advantage Stats

It is game day in Allen as the Americans take on the Missouri Mavericks in game three of their seven game series. Every game is important in the playoffs but when a series is tied 1-1 like this series, game three takes on outsized  proportions. After all, the team that loses tonight will have to win three out of the remaining four games, which almost sound insurmountable.

- Looking at all kinds of studies and probabilities over all major sports, the reality is the team that wins game three will win the series about two thirds of the time and the loser of game three will win the series one third of the time.

- What the game tonight might answer is how these teams match up with the final roster in place and both teams on equal rest. Everyone that can be added to the roster, who was in the AHL, has been added.

- Did Allen win game one because they carried momentum from their game seven overtime win in round one or did Missouri lose because they hadn't played in eight days? Did Missouri win game two because they had knocked off the rust from not playing for eight days in game one or did Allen lose because they had played four games in five days and ran out of gas? This is one of those "where you sit is where you stand" things. However, none of that is relevant in game three tonight with both teams well rested and well prepared.

- In yesterday's blog I compared all eight teams remaining in the playoffs across nine different statistical categories and it showed some stark difference between teams. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that the baseline is not a lot of playoff games (6-9 per team). With that caveat it is interesting to note Missouri has outperformed Allen in all nine statistical categories. Allen is ranked last of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs in goals scored, penalty kill, shooting percentage and plus/minus. Allen is #1 on the power play and #3 on shots for. Meanwhile Missouri is in the top four in every category except shots for, where they are #6. The Mavericks are #1 in goals allowed and GAA, #2 in power play and shooting percentage, and #3 in plus/minus, and shots against.

- Special teams is always a key factor in any hockey game but it will be even more important tonight. For Allen it starts with staying out of the penalty box. At every practice this week it has been a point of emphasis. Allen has taken 16 penalties in the first two games and the majority of them have been stick penalties and retaliation penalties. The Americans penalty kill has struggled in the playoffs and is the lowest of all teams still playing (81.0%) so staying out of the penalty box is critical. The good news for Allen is their power play is ranked #1 at 27.8%. However, Missouri is ranked #2 at 21.9%.

- Allen has had the best power play in the ECHL in the regular season and the playoffs but if you look at the 13 head to head games (11 regular season & 2 playoff) against Missouri the Mavericks have the advantage. Allen is 10-53 (18.8%) and Missouri is 13-62 (20.1%) on the power play. If you look at the two playoff games Allen is 2-11 (22%) and Missouri is 3-13 (23.1%).

- Still no word from coach Martinson on the lineup for tonight in terms of who will be sitting out. He did say on his coaches show yesterday that Riley Gill will be in goal but that was expected. Based on my observations in practice you could see Danny Federico back in the line up tonight. With Nikita Jevpalovs definitely playing that means two forwards will be healthy scratches. The tenth forward will be either J.P. LaFontaine, Justin Courtnall or Kyle Neuber.

- Allen has a history of playing great in games after lopsided defeats. You would certainly put the 5-2 loss to Missouri in game two in that category.  In round one against Idaho the Americans lost 7-1 and won the next game 4-2.  Last year on the way to the Kelly Cup,  Tulsa beat Allen 5-1, Allen won the next game 3-1. Rapid City beat Allen 7-4, Allen won the next game 4-2. Ontario beat Allen 5-0, Allen won the next game 6-2. In the Kelly Cup final South Carolina beat Allen 4-1, Allen won the next game 3-2. The bottom line is Allen is no stranger to getting beat soundly in the playoffs but they always bounce back. 

- The referees scheduled tonight are Stephen Reneau (#17) and Mike Sheehan (#11). Linesmen will be Mitch Macpherson (#48) and Erik Contino (#92).


- There was just one ECHL playoff game last night with Adirondack beating South Carolina 3-1. Adirondack leads the series 2-1 with the next two games being played in Adirondack on Thursday and Saturday.

- There are three games scheduled tonight. In addition to Allen vs Missouri the Reading Royals are at home to take on the Wheeling Nailers. Reading has been the surprise of the playoffs as the #8 seed won their first round match up with #1 seed Toledo. Reading is tied with Wheeling 1-1 with the next three games at home.

- Fort Wayne had a difficult time in the opening round before dispatching Cincinnati in seven games. They seem to be on a roll now as they lead Utah 2-0 with a chance to take a commanding lead in the series tonight in Utah. Statistically, Fort Wayne is the best team remaining in the playoffs.

- If it seems like the playoffs are moving along quickly it is because they are moving quickly. The four teams moving to the conference finals will all be decided by a week from today.

DID YOU KNOW: Playing at home has not been much of an advantage thus far in the ECHL playoffs. There have been 56 games played and the home teams have a record of 28-28. However, in game sevens the home teams are 2-1.

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