Bruins Krug Is Elevating His Game

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

By: Ian Smith | Follow me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

The Boston Bruins have been plagued with injuries this season, which has forced many players to elevate their games to fill the void. One of those players is defenseman Torey Krug, who since returning from his own injury looks like he’s playing some of the best hockey of his career. Krug missed the first eight games of the season with an ankle injury but has played in every game since returning on October 30.

The defensive unit has been especially impacted by injuries. Zdeno Chara has been out since November 16 with a lower-body injury. Charlie McAvoy missed 15 games from October 20 to December 4 with concussion issues. Kevan Miller has missed chunks of time with both hand and larynx injuries. Krug has really done a great job this season helping to mitigate those absences, and he has been so important to the Bruins remaining in playoff contention despite the numerous injuries.

In the 20 games since Krug returned from his own injury, he has scored two goals and dished out 15 assists for 17 total points. Amongst NHL defensemen who’ve played in at least 20 games this season, he ranks eighth with 0.85 points per game. That would represent the best output of his career, as his previous high for a season in which he played more than one game was last season’s 0.75 points per game.

Krug has led the team with 22:21 average time on ice per game and a 3:57 average time on ice per game during the power-play. He actually leads the team with 10 power-play assists despite missing that big chunk of time at the beginning of the season. His facilitating skills on the power-play have been a huge reason why the unit as a whole ranks sixth in the league with a 26.3% rate on the man-advantage.

There have been a lot of trade rumors surrounding Krug recently as the need for another top-six wing is evident, and Krug has one year left on his $5.25 million deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. His performance demands a pay increase, but there’s only so much money to go around. Guys like McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are restricted free agents after this season, and they’re going to deserve big raises. Salary cap issues certainly make Krug susceptible to a trade, but he is such an asset as an offensive-oriented defenseman.

Krug leads Bruins defensemen in Point Shares this season despite ranking just fourth amongst those defensemen in games played. He makes a big impact on the game in the offensive zone, and his performance has really helped keep the Bruins afloat through all their key injuries. It’s going to be really interesting to see what the defensive unit will look like once everyone gets healthy and all back together. Krug has really shined on the power-play this season, and his production has been huge while the team combats the numerous injuries throughout their lineup. The Bruins are still well within the playoff hunt despite all the injuries they’ve suffered, so there’s much reason for optimism once the lineup gets fully healthy.

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Bruins Rask Improves Play Since Returning From Leave of Absence

Bruins Stars Hockey(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

By: Ian Smith | Follow me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

When Tuukka Rask was granted a leave of absence from the Boston Bruins earlier this month to deal with a personal matter, it evoked a lot of questions. Clearly, there was something majorly impacting his life, so much so that he felt the responsible thing to do was step away from the team. These players are human beings first and foremost. Hockey is just their job. They have identities off the ice where they’re somebody’s son or husband or father. His performance on the ice is completely secondary to his existence off the ice, and he deserves support for addressing whatever it is he had to address.

Before his leave of absence was granted, he had been playing uncharacteristically poorly, and it was easy to in hindsight attribute the personal matter off the ice to the struggles on the ice. Judging from how he has played since returning from the leave of absence, it’s evident that the decision to leave the team also benefitted his play. Of course, his stats were so lackluster before the leave of absence that it was hard for him to go anywhere but up when he got back. However, the simple fact remains that he has played much better between the pipes for the Bruins since returning from his leave of absence.

Before he stepped away from the team for a few days, Rask had played in eight games and registered a 3.05 Goals Against Average and a .901 save percentage. Rask has really improved since returning to the team on November 13 after stepping away for a few days to deal with that personal matter. He was back on the ice for the November 16 game against the Dallas Stars and gave up just one goal on 37 shots faced. He has started four games for the Bruins since returning from the leave of absence, and his stats are beginning to resemble that of the elite goaltender Rask has been during his career. In his last four games, Rask has a 1.75 Goals Against Average and a .944 Save Percentage.

Jaroslav Halak has been fantastic this season, really allowing the Bruins to be able to sustain the bad stretch of games that Rask had. Halak leads the NHL with a .936 Save Percentage and ranks second with a 2.06 Goals Against Average in 15 games played.
It’s always a wise idea to ride with the hot hand in the crease, whoever that might be at any given time during the season. While it was clear for the first month or so of the season that Halak gave the Bruins a better chance to win than Rask, the gap between them is rapidly closing.  In Halak’s last four games, he has a 2.75 Goals Against Average and a .912 Save Percentage, and one of those games was when he gave up six goals on 25 shots against the Colorado Avalanche. If the Avalanche game gets eliminated, then Halak has a 1.67 Goals Against Average and a .950 Save Percentage in his last three games.

Both goaltending options look fantastic as of late, and it is such a luxury for a team to not have to lean so heavily on just one goaltender. Rask has really played better since returning from his leave of absence, and it’s easy to point to his improved peace of mind since returning as a factor in his improved performance. The Bruins look like they have two incredible goaltending options going forward, and it’ll be up to the coaching staff to see how their playing time is divvied these next handful of games.

Bruins Pastrnak Is Climbing The Scoring Leaderboard

APTOPIX Maple Leafs Bruins Hockey(Photo Credit: AP)

By: Ian Smith | Follow me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

The first two months of the season are over for the Boston Bruins, and David Pastrnak still hasn’t fallen off a viable pace to lead the league in goals. It’s always a challenge not to draw too many conclusions about the type of season a player is going to have just a few weeks into the season. The Bruins are nearly a third of the way through the season now, though, and Pastrnak still looks like he has a really good chance at capturing the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Pastrnak has played in all 25 games this season for the Bruins and is currently tied for second in the league with 19 goals. The only player who has more than Pastrnak right now is Patrik Laine, who has scored 21 goals for the Winnipeg Jets in 24 games. Laine is up by two goals on Pastrnak with one less game played, but it’s impossible to definitively declare anybody the favorite at this point.

What is clear, though, is that assuming Pastrnak remains healthy, he is going to be one of the players competing for that Rocket Richard Trophy. He had a great month of October, and he followed it up with an impressive November to remain among the goal scoring leaders. For the season, Pastrnak is averaging about 4.04 shots on goal per game and shooting 18.8%. He’s fifth in the NHL in total shots on goal with 101.

Pastrnak hasn’t missed a game yet this season, but it’s always safer to assume a guy will miss a couple here and there. It also makes for a simpler calculation if round numbers can be used. In this case, Pastrnak would play in 55 more games if he can reach 80 games. Given that Pastrnak played in all 82 games last season, it’s not a stretch to assume he’s going to prove durable of the course of this season.

If Pastrnak continues at his current rate of shots per game over the rest of the season, he’s going to finish the season with about 323 shots if he plays in 80 games. If he continues to shoot at 18.8% over the rest of the season with those same shots on goal per game totals, he’s going to finish with about 61 goals over 80 games.

That’s what he’s on pace for as of now, but there’s always the risk that a player will become more fatigued as a season prolongs and slow down a bit. In the last 10 non-lockout-shortened seasons, there have only been two 60-goal seasons. Alexander Ovechkin scored 65 in 2007-08, and Steven Stamkos scored 60 in 2011-12.

Pastrnak came into this season with a career-high of 3.49 shots on goal per game, and a career-career-high shooting percentage of 14.2%. He is far out-pacing his previous career highs in those categories through two months of this season, and it’s nearly impossible to envision him not setting a career-high in goals assuming he stays healthy.

There is some potentially bad news coming up for Pastrnak, though. Coming into this season, the lowest goal-scoring month for Pastrnak has been December with 0.29 goals per game. His two highest scoring months in terms of goals per game had been November and October, so it makes sense that he has gotten off to such a strong start.

Based on career precedent, Pastrnak is going to decrease his scoring rate in December, but his October and November of this season were so strong that it might not bump him off the pace for the goal-scoring lead too much. Pastrnak is setting himself up nicely for a run at the Rocket Richard Trophy, but he’s obviously going to need some help in the form of Laine and other top contenders going through some relative droughts.

Bruins Jake DeBrusk Is On A Roll

Bruins Canadiens Hockey(Photo Credit: AP)

By: Ian Smith | Follow me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith 

There was a lot of buzz heading into this season about how Jake DeBrusk was going to follow a pretty intriguing rookie performance. Last season DeBrusk played in 70 games for the Boston Bruins, scoring 16 goals and dishing out 27 assists for 43 points. Amongst rookies who played in at least 60 games last season, DeBrusk ranked eighth with 0.61 points per game. DeBrusk was originally drafted by the Bruins 14th overall in 2015 and is the son of former NHL bruiser Louie DeBrusk. Jake has a different game than his father, though, and actually scored more points in his rookie season than his dad scored in his entire 401 game career.

There were numerous reasons to be excited that DeBrusk was going to take things to the next level for the 2018-19 season. He’s a great skater who possesses some immense scoring ability. Not only does he produce on the offensive end, but he’s an effective two-way player as well. He started off a bit slow this year, but he is really starting to pick up the scoring pace and provide the Bruins more offensive balance through the lineup. Through the first 13 games of this season, DeBrusk had just three points, all of which were goals, with two of those goals coming in a game against the Detroit Red Wings on October 13. In the last 11 games, though, DeBrusk has been able to find his scoring touch more consistently, as he has seven goals and two assists. DeBrusk is the only player on the Bruins besides David Pastrnak with double-digit goals. He took a puck to the back of the head Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs but was back on the ice during practice a couple days later.

This recent stretch is indicative that DeBrusk might be able to reach the 30-goal plateau in just his second season in the league. Since DeBrusk doesn’t have a very extensive track record in the NHL, it’s harder to know what type of level he’s poised to settle into in terms of shooting percentage or shots per game. Last season, DeBrusk averaged about 2.04 shots on goal per game and tallied a shooting percentage of 11.2%, which resulted in 16 goals in 72 games. This season, he is averaging about 2.46 shots on goal per game, and his shooting percentage has increased to 16.9%. For his career, DeBrusk is averaging about 2.15 shots on goal per game with a shooting percentage of 12.9%. 

Let’s even assume DeBrusk misses a couple games here and there the rest of this season. At 24 games so far, maybe he’ll play in about 50 or so more. If he averages his career totals in shots on goal per game and shooting percentage in those final 50 games, DeBrusk should score about 14 more goals this season, leaving him with 24 goals. That’s still a pretty conservative estimate, though, given how he has looked this season, particularly as of late. 14 more goals would be him reverting closer to his shooting totals from last season, and it already looks like he’s in the midst of improvement this season as a scorer. Using 50 remaining games as a basic template for predicting DeBrusk’s season is nice, not only because it’s a round number, but it allows some cushion for injury.

Let’s say DeBrusk needs to score 20 goals in 50 games to get to 30 goals on the season, all of which are conveniently round numbers for the sake of the hypothetical. If he continues his shooting percentage and shots on goal per game totals thus far this season for the rest of those 50 games, DeBrusk will score about 21 more goals. That would give him 31 goals in 74 games played, and those shots per game and shooting percentage totals could even dip slightly if he plays in more than 50 more games.

It’s going to be fascinating to see if DeBrusk will even out his scoring or if he’ll continue netting them in bunches with long gaps in between. However he ultimately divides his goal scoring, though, it looks like DeBrusk is well on his way to scoring more than 30 goals in just his second season in the league, assuming he doesn’t miss significant time at any point this season.

Bruins Krejci Continuing To Make Plays

Maple Leafs Bruins Hockey(Photo Credit: Courtesy)

By: Ian Smith | Follow me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

The Boston Bruins have been leaning heavily on their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak to generate offense. That trio has a combined 71 points through the first 18 games of this season. The rest of the team has just barely outscored those three, combining for 75 points. A dominant first line is a gigantic asset, but a team also needs other players capable of elevating their games when that top trio is neutralized. 

David Krejci has really been the one other forward in this lineup who has consistently created offense for the Bruins and taken some pressure off of those three stars. Krejci has 16 points in 18 games thus far. 14 of those points have been assists, as Krejci has been excelling at making plays for his teammates to capitalize on. Krejci has tallied an assist in five consecutive games, including an especially impressive three-assist output in the loss against the Vancouver Canucks on November 8th. Unfortunately, Krejci hasn’t scored a goal in the last nine games. The last time he lit the lamp came October 23 against the Ottawa Senators. The Bruins are still shuffling things around on lines two through four. Jake DeBrusk was moved to the right side from the left with Krejci, and Joakim Nordstrom was bumped up to join those two on the left.

As the season goes on, it’s going to be imperative for the Bruins to be able to rely on people beyond just the top line to produce on the offensive end. Krejci is a great playmaker, and he has the vision and facilitation skills to consistently create scoring opportunities when he’s out on the ice. Of the 14 assists Krejci has dished out this season, five have come on the power-play. That’s tied for third on the team. The Bruins have been 31.7% on the power-play so far this season in their 18 games, which ranks second in the league. They have 20 power-play goals in all, which is more than any other team has. Krejci has assisted on a quarter of those and scored another one. He has been a big part of why this power-play unit has been so successful. He has spread out his assists among numerous teammates on that power-play. Pastrnak is the only guy who Krejci has multiple assists to on the man advantage.

Krejci has nine assists during even-strength play. DeBrusk has three of those goals, Nordstrom has two, Pastrnak has two, Bergeron has one, and Matt Grzelcyk has one. Krejci is on pace for his best offensive season since 2008-09, when he scored 73 points in 82 games as a 22-year old. He’s having this impressive season so far despite having just two goals through 18 games with just 21 shots on goal. That’s a shooting percentage of just 9.5%, which is well below his career rate of 12.1% and would be his lowest total since his 8.3% output in 2010-11.

He’s only averaging about 1.17 shots on goal per game this season. That’s well below his approximately 1.84 career shots on goal per game rate. It’s also by far his fewest amount of shots on goal per game for a season. His lowest seasonal total in campaigns where he played at least 47 games was 1.30, and that was back in 2007-08 when he played 56 games. 

He’s very likely to eventually get those shots per game totals up, as well as that shooting percentage increased, which has him in store for one of his best offensive seasons if he can stay healthy. Being nearly on pace right now for his best offensive season while shooting uncharacteristically poorly and more sporadically through these 18 games is impressive in its own right. It shows how tremendous he has been at creating scoring chances for his teammates this season, and there’s certainly reason to believe his goal scoring is going to increase the more he gets the puck on net based on what he has done previously in his career.

His best goal-scoring month during his career has been December. In 110 career December games, Krejci has 35 goals, which is a rate of 0.32 goals per game. That is significantly higher than his total career rate of 0.22 goals per game. Look for him to start getting more goals as the team moves into December. The Bruins need reliable production beyond the trio of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak, and it looks like Krejci is poised to continue offering his brand of dependable offensive playmaking. 

Bruins Bergeron on Pace for Career Year

NELA8854.JPG(Photo Credit: Nancy Lane)

By: Ian Smith | Follow me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

Patrice Bergeron has been arguably the best two-way player in hockey for the last handful of seasons. He has won four Selke Trophies in the previous seven years and possesses the playmaking abilities to consistently generate offense for himself and his teammates. The energy and skill it takes to be such a stalwart on the defensive end of the ice while also serving as an important source of offensive production is truly remarkable. Bergeron’s value to this team is immeasurable, and it looks like he might be in the midst of the best offensive season of his career.

It’s amazing that he is averaging well over a point per game to start this season at age 33 and with over 900 games under his belt, especially because it looks like he might be entering new territory. Bergeron has never averaged a point per game throughout a season. The closest he came was last season when he registered 63 points in 64 games. Heading into the 2018-19 season, Bergeron had played 14 years in the NHL, and his career-high point total was 73 back in 2005-06. He did that as a 20-year-old, and he’s on pace right now to surpass that previous best as a 33-year-old with a lot of mileage on his skates. Through 15 games this season, Bergeron has 21 points, which ranks him tied for fifth in the league in points scored.

There are numerous reasons to believe that Bergeron is going to score more points this season that he ever has before in his career. For one thing, he’s durable. He missed a chunk of time last season with a broken bone in his foot, but it was the first season in a while where he had missed significant action. He had appeared in at least 79 games in each of the previous six non-lockout shortened seasons before last year, and he has appeared in all 15 Bruins games so far.

Playing on a line with David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand is going to provide him with ample opportunities to either set those two up for goals or capitalize himself on chances created by them. Pastrnak looks like he’s going to compete for the Rocket Richard Trophy this season, and Marchand is the only player in the league who has scored at least 34 goals in each of the previous three seasons. That line is going to continue scoring at an impressive rate, meaning Bergeron is going to keep racking up points.

Bergeron has 51 shots on net through 15 games this season. That’s an average of 3.40 shots on goal per game. He has averaged 2.96 shots on goal per game for his career. When he had 73 points in 2005-06 he averaged 3.83 shots on goal per game. When he scored 63 points in 64 games last season, he averaged 3.50 shots on goal per game. He is averaging fewer shots on goal per game this season, but he has a shooting percentage of 15.7% this year so far. That’s well above his career total of 10.3% and his 2005-06 total of 10.0%. It’s also higher than his 13.4% put up in 2017-18. Even if Bergeron slips in his shots on goal per game to something like 3.30 and his shooting percentage to something like 13% from this point forward, that would still come out to about 38 goals by the end of this season if Bergeron plays in 80 games. If Bergeron can stay healthy this season, he’s very likely going to set a career high in goals. Pastrnak and Marchand are also going to provide him with plenty of opportunities to rack up assists, so Bergeron is really in a great position.

During his career, Bergeron’s lowest scoring month in terms of points per game in months where he has played at least 100 career games is the month of November at about 0.70 points per game. His second lowest points per game for a month is 0.72 for October. Bergeron tends to pick up his scoring rate after the first two months of the season, so the fact that he has started off this strong bodes well for him to keep it up for the rest of the season. There are definitely a lot of indicators that Bergeron is in the midst of what’s going to end up being one of his most statistically impressive seasons.

Bruins Marchand Nets Two Against Canes

Brad Marchand(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

By: Ian Smith | Follow Me On Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

Brad Marchand has made a name for himself as one of the most prolific goal scorers in the league and a tenacious agitator always able to provide his team a spark. He is the only player in the NHL who has scored at least 34 goals in each of the previous three seasons, so his relatively slow start in the goal scoring department heading into the Boston Bruins game against the Carolina Hurricanes was really surprising.

He managed to score two goals against the Hurricanes, though. The first one tied the game near the end of the second period and his next one in the third period ended up being the game winner. The two goals equaled the total he had all season up to that point through 11 games. It’s not like Marchand hadn’t been making plays, though. He had 11 assists in those 11 games, and the top line had been carrying a disproportionate chunk of the Bruins offensive production.

His linemates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak had combined for 17 of the 34 goals the Bruins had scored in those first 11 games. It seemed like it was only going to be a matter of time before Marchand began finding the back of the net more frequently, and perhaps this Hurricanes game will be the start of a goal-scoring stretch more typical of what Marchand has become accustomed to.

While he has done a terrific job of facilitating and creating chances on the offensive end, he hasn’t really been sending many pucks to the net. Through those first 11 games, Marchand had generated just 17 shots on goal. That’s about 1.55 shots on goal per game. Heading into this season, Marchand had averaged about 2.37 shots on goal per game throughout his career.

Marchand hasn’t averaged fewer than two shots on goal per game in any season since 2013-14 when he averaged 1.82 shots on goal per game. The Hurricanes game was a welcome development from him, as he got five shots on net, which was his season high thus far. He’ll have to pick up the goal-scoring pace a bit if he wants to secure his fourth consecutive season reaching the 30 goal plateau, as he now has 70 games to light the lamp 26 more times. Considering that he scored 34 goals in 68 games last season, he’s certainly capable of that rate, and playing alongside guys like Bergeron and Pastrnak will provide him ample opportunities to score as this season continues.

He also tends to pick up his goal scoring rates towards the middle of the season. Regarding goals per game, his most potent months over the course of his career have been January and February. He has averaged about 0.61 goals per game in January and 0.51 goals per game in February for his career. Comparatively, he has averaged 0.31 goals per game in October and 0.27 goals per game in November for his career.  He normally hits his stride once the calendar turns, but just two goals in any 11 game window will always be unusual for a guy of his prowess. It’ll be interesting to see if the Hurricanes game is a signal of what’s to come these next few weeks for Marchand in terms of scoring goals.

Bruins Halak Asserting Himself

Bruins Oilers Hockey(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

By: Ian Smith | Follow Me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

The Boston Bruins have 14 points through 11 games this season and are hovering near the top of the Eastern Conference. They’ve gotten incredible production from their top line, have been capitalizing on the power-play, and have given up the third fewest goals per game in the league. Being stingy with goals allowed isn’t anything new for this franchise, as they ranked fourth last season in that category and ninth the season before.

What’s been different this season is that the solid production in net hasn’t been generated mainly by Tuukka Rask, but by his backup. Jaroslav Halak already looks like one of the smartest free agent signings of this past offseason. He leads in the league in Goals Against Average and is second in Save Percentage. A fantastic backup goaltender is certainly a great problem for any team to have, but it forces the coaching staff to make some difficult decisions divvying up playing time. Rask has been one of the best goaltenders in the league in recent years, but early into this season, it has been hard to argue that he gives the Bruins a better chance to win than Halak.

In the five games started by Halak, the Bruins have won three of them and lost the other two in overtime. The three games where the Bruins haven’t collected any points in the standings were all started by Rask. There’s a powerful case to be made that the team needs to forget about what the depth chart looked like heading into this season and simply ride the hot hand for the time being.

It’s nearly impossible for Halak to keep up quite the level of production he has played at thus far, not because he isn’t talented, but because it has been so remarkable. He has two shutouts in his five starts and has registered a .945 Save Percentage and a 1.43 Goals Against Average for the Bruins. Comparatively, Rask has just a .902 Save Percentage and a 3.15 Goals Against Average. Rask’s opening start against the Washington Capitals was disastrous and immediately put his stats in a deep hole. He gave up five goals in 19 shots in that game before being yanked. He had a bad game against the Calgary Flames, too, giving up four goals on 28 shots.

Interestingly, Rask has faced 27 more shots than Halak while in net this season despite being on the ice for about 13 fewer minutes. Rask’s job would certainly be easier if he wasn’t facing such a barrage of shots. In his five starts since that dreadful opening night performance, Rask has faced an average of 30.8 shots per game. Halak has had an easier workload. In Halak’s last five starts, he has faced an average of 25.6 shots per game. Not only does Halak look sharper in net right now, but his defense in front of him seems to clamp down more with him in the crease. It’s really an unusual situation for Rask to be in. The last time he hasn’t had the highest Save Percentage and the lowest Goals Against Average on the team among goaltenders who played at least 10 games was 2010-11.

It’s still early in the season, and things can certainly change, but Halak looks like he can be trusted with a higher share of the starts than he has been getting. Rask has proven to be a great goaltender, and even if it takes a while longer for him to get up to speed this season, the Bruins can feel confident in this goaltending duo as the season furthers.

Bruins Pastrnak On Huge Scoring Rate

NELA5530.JPG(Photo Credit: Nancy Lane)

By: Ian Smith | Follow Me On Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

The Boston Bruins are about a 10th of the way through the season, and David Pastrnak looks like he might be in the midst of his best year. Through eight games, he has lit the lamp eight times and ranks tied for second in the league in goals, trailing only Auston Matthews and tied with Nathan MacKinnon.

The strong performance of Pastrnak thus far evokes the question of if he’s a viable candidate to lead the league in goals this season. From a pure talent perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. He has eclipsed 30 goals in each of the previous two seasons, and he blends his quickness with a natural scoring ability to create plenty of opportunities for himself.

He’s on pace for 82 goals as of now, and while that astounding rate isn’t going to keep up, it’s still extremely plausible that he can win the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. Over the past five seasons, the eventual winner of the trophy has averaged about 49 goals, so Pastrnak has to get somewhere around 50 to have a decent chance at winning.

That means he has 74 games left to score 42 goals. He’s averaging about 4.1 shots on goal per game, and he’s on pace to send more shots on goal this year than he ever has as well. He has scored eight goals on 33 shots so far, which is a 24.2% shooting percentage. That far exceeds his career 13.8% and his single-season best of 14.2%, and it obviously going to dip a bit as the season goes on.

Over the previous five seasons, the eventual Rocket Richard Trophy winner has finished with a shooting percentage somewhere between 12.6% and 17.3% the season in which they won. Alexander Ovechkin has won the award four times in the past five seasons, with the other winner being Sidney Crosby in 2016-17.

Each season Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy he also led the league in shots on goal. When Crosby won it, though, he ranked only 14th in shots on goal. It took a higher shot percentage for Crosby at 17.3% to win the award, which is actually higher than Ovechkin has ever shot, and Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy seven times in his career.

The last five Rocket Richard Trophy seasons have been won by sending an average of about 358 shots on goal that season. Throughout an 82 game season, that works out to about 4.4 shots on goal per game. If Pastrnak needs around 358 shots on goal to have a decent chance at winning the award, he needs to get 325 more shots on target this season.

It’s entirely conceivable that Pastrnak will play all 82 games this season. He did it last season, but it’s always a safe assumption that some games are missed here and there over the course of a grueling campaign. Maybe Pastrnak is going to play about 70 more games this season. In that scenario, he’d have to average about 4.6 shots per game for the rest of the way to get to that 358 total. If he does play all 82 games, that number will decrease to about 4.4 shots on goal from here on out.

Considering that Pastrnak is averaging 4.1 shots on goal per game so far, he needs to slightly increase that output to have a better chance of winning the Rocket Richard Trophy this season. He’s certainly in the discussion, though, and even if he doesn’t win the award, it’d be shocking based on how he’s playing right now if he didn’t set a career high this season in goals scored.

McAvoy off to Strong Start for the Bruins

W2ST2453.JPG(Photo Credit: Matt West)

By: Ian Smith | Follow Me On Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

It’s still early in the season for the Boston Bruins, but it really looks like defenseman Charlie McAvoy is going to have a huge year. Through the first five games, McAvoy is averaging a point per game, as he has dished out four assists and netted one goal.
His performance last season hinted that he was going to be a great player at this level, and he’s already building on the promise he showed last year.

He played in 65 games last season and tallied 32 points, which consisted of 25 assists and seven goals in 22:09 average time on ice. The only rookie defenseman in the NHL last season who played at least 10 games and averaged more points per game than McAvoy was Will Butcher of the New Jersey Devils. McAvoy also led the Bruins with 26.4 shifts per game, illustrating the team’s belief that he can be deployed in any type of situation.

Playing with Zdeno Chara as a blue-line partner is every young defenseman’s dream, as there aren’t many better mentors than Chara to learn the game from. Chara was the only player on the Bruins to log more average ice time than McAvoy last season, and McAvoy actually had more Point Shares than Chara. McAvoy had 2.3 Offensive Point Shares and 4.5 Defensive Points Shares for a total of 6.8 Point Shares. Chara had 1.1 Offensive Point Shares and 5.2 Defensive Point Shares for a total of 6.3 Point Shares.

It’s fitting that McAvoy starred at Boston University and now looks like a future star for the pro club in town. He was drafted 14th overall in a 2016 draft class that’s already being highlighted by stars like Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. McAvoy was the third defenseman off the board in that draft, following Mikhail Sergachev taken 9th by the Montreal Canadiens and Jake Bean picked 13th by the Carolina Hurricanes. Bean has not debuted in the NHL yet, and Sergachev is coming off a 2018-19 season in which he had 40 points in 79 games.

McAvoy is a two-way defenseman who possesses a great feel for the game, although at 6-foot and 208 pounds he doesn’t have ideal size for the position. It hasn’t stopped other guys with a similar frame from becoming elite defensemen, but it lingers in the back of the mind as a concern. It looks even more dramatic when he’s paired with the 6-foot-9 and 250-pound Chara, although Chara would dwarf anyone partnered on the blue line with him.

The team is trying to pick up some of the slack with Torey Krug out for a while with a left ankle injury, and McAvoy is certainly doing his part. He’s tied for seventh in points among NHL defensemen as of October 15. Yes, it’s extremely early, but it’s also extremely encouraging that McAvoy hasn’t fallen into any type of prolonged sophomore slump to start the season. The Bruins are hoping that McAvoy can be a fixture on their top defensive pairing for the foreseeable future, and right now they have to be ecstatic about what they’ve seen from him so far.