By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @BruinsBreakdown
With NHL games about to get started much attention will be given to who will make the team, what the line combinations will be, and how a team might change how they play from the previous year. All are worthwhile and exciting discussions we are fortunate to be having, even if a little delayed from their usual time of year. With that being said, it is also worth taking a look at what statistics Bruins’ fans should be paying attention to as the season commences. Below are three different categories that may make or break the upcoming season for the boys from Beantown.
Special teams percentages
In 2019-20 the Bruins finished second in powerplay goals with 57. They did so by converting on 25.2% of their chances, also second in the league. With their main PP facilitator, Torey Krug, moving on and their main trigger man, David Pastrnak, missing the early part of the season this will be an important number to watch.
The Bruins were also very strong on the penalty kill conceding just 34 goals, tied for fourth in the league. They managed this by killing off 84.3% of their shorthanded situations, good for third overall. The status of Zdeno Chara, who takes away passing lanes like no other, could impact the PK unit.
Combining powerplay and penalty kill percentages, the Bruins add up to 109.5. Anything above 100 is usually considered good. The Bruins were more than good on special teams and will need to be so again to come close to mimicking last year’s regular-season success.
Expected goals at five-on-five
While the Bruins were perhaps the strongest team in the league on special teams, their five-on-five play is a little more complicated to evaluate. The Bruins conceded the second least expected goals per game at 1.98. They were a staunch defensive unit. On the offensive end though, they could only muster 2.12 expected goals per game, good for 28th overall.
The Bruins made an effort to improve their five-on-five play with the addition of Craig Smith over the summer and Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie late last season. All three do most of their heavy lifting at even strength and should help drive more offense while not compromising their own end.
However, the status of the defensive unit will have a great impact on these numbers. This is true both from a personnel and tactical standpoint. It is to be seen if a new look unit can handle the rigors of top opponents. It will also be interesting to see if the coaching staff allows the defenseman to play more aggressively or has them continue to be conservative and limit counter attacks. Expected goal rates early in the season should present a first glimpse of how the Bruins personnel and tactical choices are playing out.
|2019-20||71% (1st)||227 (7th)||167 (1st)||57.6% (1st)||190 (18th)||171 (4th)||52.6%(5th)||1.022 (1st)|
PDO may prove the most important statistic to keep an eye on. PDO is a combination of save percentage and shooting percentage. It should average out to around 1.00 with anything above being strong or lucky and anything below being weak or unlucky. PDO has been shown to have a very strong correlation to a team’s success, even more so than expected goals and a number of other metrics.
In 2019-20 the Bruins had a PDO of 1.022, mere tens of thousandths behind the eventually Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They did so on the back of a .929 save percentage from Tuukka Rask in 41 appearances, his best number since 2013-14. Jaroslav Halak also posted a strong .919 save percentage in his 31 games played. Both goalies will need to continue their strong play in the abbreviated season.
As a team, the Bruins shot 10.1 percent, good for 12th overall. However, a number of Bruins exceeded expectations. This is because they have several very talented shooters like David Pastrnak. Pastrnak posted the best percentage of his career last season at 17.2, better than his career average of 14.7. Coming off an injury, he will need to show that the higher number is in line with his prime years. The Bruins also have several other above-average shooters in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Jake Debrusk. All will need to continue the trend in the upcoming season.
Paying attention to the numbers should not detract from watching the game. After all, that is the fun part. But paying attention to the statistics discussed above will provide important insight into why the Bruins are succeeding or struggling in 2021. Go Bruins!
Data courtesy of NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com