By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz
Bruins fans learned early in the day the team would likely be without David Pastrnak again which was not a complete surprise. However, they were not expecting the news that Vezina nominee Tuukka Rask would not only not be playing but was permanently leaving the bubble and forgoing the playoffs. In spite of the absences, and the bombshell news, the Bruins played perhaps their most complete game of the restart en route a 2-1 series lead. Let’s break the game down!
The Bruins were outplayed in the first but managed to escape the period 0-0. A Charlie Coyle at-bat at the start of the 2nd period after a great puck retrieval from Brad Marchand swung the tide in favor of the bruins. The Bruins would strike again early in the 3rd with a shorthanded marker. Coyle pulled up on the rush and hit a streaking Sean Kuraly who tipped the puck by the foot of Petr Mrazek. Jaroslav Halak gifted Nino Niederreiter a goal on a failed clearing attempt in the middle of the 3rd but both the goalie and the team shut the door from there and finished things off with a Brad Marchand empty-netter.
Check out the full recap here from my colleague Mike Cratty.
Tuukka Rask – It’s hard not to lead with this story. It was a surprise to Bs fans before the game and per reporting, to Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and his teammates. These are weird times and weird circumstances. This decision and choice highlight that more than anything. While sports are fun and an escape they are also a major business. While the players are extremely well-compensated employees they are also human. The NHLPA negotiated the right for players to opt-out before the restart with several fringe players choosing to do so. Rask is by far the most prominent player to do so, and with added flair, announcing the choice right before game 3. Rask cited family concerns in his statement which were echoed by GM Don Sweeney.
#NHLBruins goalie Tuukka Rask has opted out of the NHL’s Return to Play: pic.twitter.com/r3c7wjaTwR— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) August 15, 2020
The reaction on social media seems mixed for a player who already polarized the fan base. Regardless of the feelings, you hope that Rask and his family are well and that the Bruins can solider on without their star netminder.
Jaroslav Halak – Halak will now bear the weight of #BruinsNation as he assumes the role of starting netminder. Halak has posted good numbers in the playoffs over his career. He has also played well the last couple of years over stretches of injuries or personal absences for Rask. The focus was on him in this one and in his first test he performed quite well. He even had an assist…though it was for the other team.
Special Teams – The Bruins scored all 3 goals in special situations – powerplay, penalty kill, and with the empty net. Special teams was a key variable in last year’s sweep of the ‘Canes not to mention a key factor in their impressive regular season. Minus David Pastrnak, there were major concerns but David Krejci has filled in nicely and Coyle has made for a good switch instead of Jake Debrusk. The Bruins attempted 20 shots, had 11 shots on goal, and produced 1.17 expected goals with the man advantage. They limited Carolina’s chances on over 13 minutes of PP time to only 14 attempts, 10 shots on goal, and 0.77 expected goals. The Bruins were dangerous on the PK, often counterattacking and producing 0.48 expected goals. Kuraly’s shorthanded goal proved the game-winner.
Corsi (shot attempts), Scoring Chances, and Expected Goals
Data courtesy of naturalstattrick.com
The Bruins were the stronger team in this matchup. The team sat back a little in the first, something Coach Cassidy credited to Carolina’s jump but also a focus on being more defensive-minded. The coach’s comments are backed up by the numbers, with the Bruins not getting much offense going but only conceding 3 scoring chances and 0.27 expected goals in the frame. After the early power-play goal in the second, the Bs didn’t look back, substantially out attempting a team known for their attempts. And their attempts were the more dangerous of the teams with the marked advantage in expected goals. The 3rd-period numbers are indicative of the Bruins identity, keeping the game patient and looking for opportunity more than volume while keeping the opponent couped up.
BOS vs. CAR 8-15 Heat Map pic.twitter.com/OtAei485M6— BruinsBreakdown (@LeonLifschutz) August 15, 2020Heat Map Taken from naturalstattrick.com
The Bruins generated a number of chances from close to the net with all three goals coming from right at the top of the crease. On the powerplay, they were notably trying to get the puck in tight with a number of near-misses off of some nice touches.
Carolina had trouble penetrating the Bruins defense, with most shots coming from the top of the zone and away from home plate. Halak was decent on his rebound control after the first period and the Bruins defenders did an excellent job of boxing out second chance opportunities.
Bruins Game Scores 8-15-20 vs. CAR pic.twitter.com/G38ipxJzvu— BruinsBreakdown (@LeonLifschutz) August 15, 2020
Brad Marchand finishes first tonight largely as a result of strong individual efforts off the rush and being a key cog of the powerplay. However, the empty netter was what got him into first place. Stats aren’t perfect.
Coyle’s numbers reflect what all who watched knew was a good game for 3C. His two-way play helped his two new linemates Sean Kuraly and Jack Studnicka have strong games and his work on special teams fueled the Bruins goals. Studnicka, it’s worth noting, had a good individual expecting goal number after being reinserted in the lineup. He was able to get to dirtier areas. He was also a danger coming down the wing on the rush, providing an outlet for Coyle lugging the puck through the center. Kuraly playing 3W is much more capable of showing his offense than in his usual 4C slot.
While Zdeno Chara’s minutes were up over the last game due to penalty-killing duties, his even-strength shifts were much more sheltered. The coaching move seems validated by his vastly improved numbers.
David Krejci continues to have a great playoff. Ondrej Kase continues to get chances shielding the puck with his big butt and hopefully will start converting them soon. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo bounced back from a rough defensive effort in game 2. Anders Bjork had a rough game with 3 overzealous stick infractions.
There is some debate over how much coaching matters. Statistical analysis has suggested it contributes to just a few wins per season at best. But that margin can be the difference between losing in 7 or winning in 7. In today’s video breakdown we will look at the adjustment Cassidy and his coaching staff made on the Bruins’ powerplay entries that led to the increased success of the man advantage. Before we watch the clip, check out this visual of how Carolina sets up their PK at the defensive blue line.
‘Canes PK is set up like a diamond to force teams to carry to the circles and disrupt. Bs chipping the puck cross-ice behind the diamond is what’s helping them enter the zone better than game 1. pic.twitter.com/KAGIoCWOpc— BruinsBreakdown (@LeonLifschutz) August 15, 2020
In game 1, the Bruins were regularly skating into the red circles, exactly what Carolina wanted. Carolina has a mobile D and several forwards capable of stripping pucks. The Bruins adjusted, chipping pucks cross-ice away from the goalie and the defenders. Let’s watch the next clip to see this in action and note a couple additional points.
Krejci initiates the play with the good chip. Marchand is already on his horse bee-lining for the corner before the puck even arrives.
Marchand is not the biggest guy. He wins this, and many of his battles, by being Marchand, anticipating and using his strength on his skates and positioning his body. The little stick swipe helps too. He gets a great rebound off his quick shot to the far pad of Mrazek.
Coyle is supporting the puck and when sees the play developing goes to the net. He is in the right place for the rebound. Also, he is really good at hockey and makes a play only the world’s best can.
Moment of the Night
Sean Kuraly’s shorthanded goal had the Bruins bench excited. Even Bruce Cassidy was stoked pic.twitter.com/Z1VBhIBwx6
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) August 15, 2020
Always good to see the boys (and coaching staff) celebrating. Hopefully lots more of this on Monday and for the rest of the playoffs.
Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.
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