By: Brian Boll | Follow Me On Twitter @HockeyOgie
This article focuses on the Bruins offensive zone entries in game one of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why is this information important? These zone entries can be analyzed, along with the results of the entry, to determine whether the puck possessions are efficient and effective. Zone entries are a crucial part of a team’s strategy. Obviously, everyone would like a clean entry with control resulting in a clear lane to the net and a scoring chance. That situation is rare at the NHL level, especially in the playoffs. What other types of entries can work in Boston’s favor? We will examine the results from game one here.
The Bruins won game one 3-2, with Tampa Bay scoring their two goals in a third-period comeback effort. Boston was scheduled as the visiting team in game 1. This means they must put their line out first on a faceoff, allowing the Lightning to control the line matchup before the faceoff. In Toronto, this also means the bench side being along the left-side in the first and third periods, and the right side in the second period. This could present a challenge to change lines when an unfavorable matchup is found in the faceoff circle.
The entries that were analyzed were all even-strength, 5-on-5 play. A zone entry is defined as the puck movement from the neutral zone into the offensive zone, offensive zone faceoffs and Tampa Bay regroups into their defensive zone are not considered zone entries. Most of these entries that were analyzed were situations where the puck was dumped into the zone. The modern NHL is supposed to be about puck-skills and possession, isn’t dump and chase old-school hockey? The answer is no if done with a purpose. Here is why this strategy worked for the Bruins.
Being at a slight disadvantage with the line matchups, and attempting to evaluate their opponent and set the tempo in the first game of the series, the Bruins regularly dumped or chipped the puck into the offensive zone in order to set up a forecheck or to change lines and maintain pressure on the puck. Tampa Bay can be a dangerous team with the puck, so why not make them earn 200 feet of ice to earn a look at the Bruins net? In addition, defensive zone play can become tiring and can wear a team down over time. Even when the Lightning were able to exit the zone with control and speed, many times, the Bruins were able to disrupt their momentum with a neutral zone forecheck or a strong effort at their blueline. A chip into the zone could create turnover opportunities by forcing the defending players to turn their back to pressure and attempt to move the puck up ice quickly, sometimes causing a turnover by the defensemen or forcing the opposing goalie to handle the puck with a sense of urgency.
Bruins Zone Entries in Game 1 Win pic.twitter.com/HaDqMaL9c2— Ogie Hockey (@HockeyOgie) August 24, 2020
The Bruins finished the first period with a 1-0 lead. This goal by Charlie Coyle resulted in following a zone exit by Patrice Bergeron’s line that was able to maintain possession through a partial line change into the offensive zone for Coyle to finish the play. This puck could have been dumped, chipped to open ice, or put on the net to get fresh legs onto the ice. We saw great recognition by Brad Marchand to gain the zone, delay, and allow puck support to get into the zone to maintain this possession. This was one specific situation where the zone entry decision had a positive impact on the play.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
In the second period, with teams having the long change, we saw many pucks dumped in deep to allow for a clean line change. The Bruins finished the period with a 2-0 lead. David Pastrnak scored the second goal with a beautiful one-timer on the powerplay. But prior to this Tampa Bay penalty, we saw Charlie Coyle’s line once again get the puck deep into an aggressive forecheck that forced the Lightning to take a penalty while struggling to move the puck out of their zone. Again, without this entry selection and a relentless forecheck that lead to Victor Hedman taking a tripping penalty against Anders Bjork, the Bruins would not have had this powerplay opportunity.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
In the first half of the third period, we saw Boston continuing an aggressive forecheck, recovering pucks deep into the zone, and taking advantage of extended zone time. Could this be a result of wearing down the Lightning by continually forcing them to retrieve pucks deep in their zone during the first two periods? With Boston once again being the visiting team in game two, a similar strategy could once again be productive. Despite the typical hockey cliché of “getting pucks deep” much of the time being confused with an old-school type of mentality, with the potential of 7 games in 11 days in this series, continuing to make efficient zone entry decisions could become an extremely important strategy to succeed in this series. Game 2 is Tuesday night as the Bruins look to continue their push into the Eastern Conference finals.