The Bruins’ PK In the Playoffs Is Similar To How It Was In The Regular Season

Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

Over the course of the past month or so, I’ve published articles using shot heatmaps on the Bruins offense, defense, and power play during the regular season. Now, it’s time to take a look at the penalty kill. In addition to breaking down how it was in the regular season, I’m going to discuss how it seems to be in the playoffs. I do not have a heatmap to go off of from that, so it’ll purely be my observations, so keep that in mind. Now, let’s get into how these things work. Please note, the next two sections are taken directly from the previous three articles. If you have already read them and/or just know how heatmaps work, feel free to skip ahead! But, for those of you haven’t or that just need a refresher, let’s dig right in!

A Short Introduction to Shot Heatmaps

Before I begin, here’s a short overview of how to read these heatmaps for those of you who don’t know or need a refresher. This is just a basic overview of how these heatmaps work. If you want to see a really in-depth analysis, you can check one out (albeit of the San Jose Sharks) here. But anyway, these maps illustrate the number of unblocked shots (not necessarily on goal) for or against a team compared to the league average, and where those shots are coming from. Blue means that fewer unblocked shots are generated from a given spot than the league average, whereas red means more are generated than the league average. The deeper the color, the further away from the league average a team is from that spot. White means that shots are being generated at the league average from that particular spot. 

With this in mind, on offensive graphs, blue is good, and red is bad. Obviously, you want your team to be generating a ton of shots, and ideally, they’ll be producing more than most other teams. On the other hand, for defensive graphs, the opposite is true. When an area is blue, it means that team is letting less unblocked shots through than the league average. It goes without saying that’s a great thing. The fewer shots that get through unblocked, the fewer chances an opponent gets to score. 

Defining Areas of the Ice

Before I get started with the actual heatmaps, there’s just a few more things I want to go over. The picture in the embedded tweet above is an example of the heatmaps you’ll see in this article as it was directly on the website. This is great on its own, but I decided to add a few more things to aid in my analysis.

As you can see, I’ve added a box and a trapezoid to the above graph (as well as made the crease more obvious). My apologies for the subpar photo editing job, I don’t have access to the best software and I’m not too skilled at it either. But, it’s good enough for the purposes of this article. Please note, these outlines may be off a little bit, but if they are, it’s not by much as I was as exact as possible with the tools I had. 

I’ve added these areas to aid in my analysis of these graphs. The box area I have outlined is known as the “slot”, and shots from this area are considered “high danger”. The trapezoid is known as just that, and shots from that area are considered “medium danger”. Shots from anywhere else on the ice are considered “low danger.” According to this article, in the high danger area, shots have at least a 10% chance of going in. The article also says that shots from the medium danger area have a 3-10% chance of going in, while low danger shots have at most a 3% chance of going in. 

To be clear, those percentages are averages, as some shots obviously stand a better chance of going in than others, even from within those areas. For example, a shot from the backdoor of the net that’s wide open has a much better shot than one that’s coming from right out front with the goalie square to it. But anyway, with all of that out of the way now, let’s get into the actual analysis these things.

Now, Onto the Analysis

Both Circles and the Right Point Were Great

As you can see from the graph, the Bruins did an excellent job suppressing shots from the right side of the ice during the regular season. Let’s start with the right circle. There isn’t a single spot in it where they allowed more shots per hour on while on the PK than a league average team, which is outstanding. In fact, they allowed between 0.6 and 1.0 less shots per hour than the average team for the most dangerous areas of it. Considering there aren’t many spots per power play and there usually aren’t too many power plays per game, that’s incredible. 

The Bruins also did a good job of suppressing shots from the right point (and the whole right side really). They allowed around 0.1 and 0.3 less shots per hour from that point than the average team, which is great. This is especially true considering they had two large areas of ice where they were even further above league average than that (more on the second one shortly). It’s a good sign that the Bruins were good at suppressing shots from at least one point, as even though they are technically low-danger shots, they often produce large rebounds that other players can scoop up and bury, or the goalie is screened when they’re coming through. So, a shot from there is more dangerous than it appears, because rebounds are the most common way goals are scored in the NHL.

The left circle was good too, but not quite as good. The Bruins allowed between 0.3 and 1.0 shots per hour less than a league-average team for the most dangerous area of the circle, which is great. But, for the far left part of the circle, they allowed between 0.3-1.0 more shots per hour than the average team. However, that isn’t a very dangerous part of the ice, as it’s a weird angle to the net. So, while it’s far from ideal to be below league average in a spot, it’s not too detrimental to be from a spot like that. It’s not realistic to say that they’ll be above average in every area of the ice, and if there’s going to be a spot where they aren’t as good, that’s a good one to pick.

The High Slot Was in Need of Work, Slot Was Okay But Could’ve Used Some Too

The biggest area of the ice the Bruins needed to be better about protecting on the PK was the high slot. The high slot is considered to be one of the most dangerous areas of the ice, and the fact that the Bruins allowed between 0.6-1.0 shots per hour more than an average team form that area is not good. It obviously wasn’t too detrimental to them, as their penalty kill was third in the league with an 84.3% success rate. But, that’s not a recipe for success usually. Luckily, they appear to have cleaned it up for the playoffs, so let’s hope that continues for the rest of their postseason and then carries over into next year.

The slot area of the ice also could’ve used some work. It was nowhere near as bad as the high slot was, but it still wasn’t great. It’s considered to be the most dangerous area of the ice, so to have any spots in it where they were allowing more than the league average in shots is not exactly good. This is especially true given the main area of the slot they were allowing more than the average number of shots from was right at the top of the crease, which is the most dangerous part of it. They were allowing between 0.1 and 0.3 more shots per hour than the average team from one area there, which is far from ideal. Granted, you can’t really block shots from that area, but you can prevent them from happening, which is what the Bruins needed to do more of.

That being said, the Bruins had some spots of the slot where they were allowed less than the league average amount of shots. The biggest spot of the slot where they were below average is the left edge of the crease, which is a very dangerous area. They allowed between 0.6 and 0.8 fewer shots per hour for most of this area, which is incredible, especially considering I’ve already talked about a few spots where they were even better than that. There really aren’t many shots on a power play usually, and there normally aren’t too many power plays per game, so for the Bruins to have been that strong in as many areas of the ice as they were is amazing.

The Middle of the Blue Line Also Needed Some Work

The only other area of the ice that the Bruins could’ve stood to work on allowing fewer shots from was below the middle of the blue line. They were allowing between 0.3 and 1.0 more shots per hour than the average team from most of that area. Even though that is a low-danger spots for initial shots, like the points, it’s still a dangerous spot of the ice. Most goals in the NHL are scored off of rebounds, and shots from that far out usually produce big rebounds as they’re hard for goaltenders to control. They’re also usually screened and so don’t know they’re coming until they hit them. So, it was not ideal for the Bruins to be that far below league average from that spot.

How Does This Compare to the Bruins PK in the Playoffs?

As I said earlier, I don’t have a heatmap of how the Bruins PK has been in the playoffs. However, I wanted to take some time and compare it to how it was during the regular season using what I personally have noticed. For the most part, I think it’s been very similar. They have an 81.1% success rate in the playoffs, so that’s pretty close to their 84.3% success rate in the regular season. They’re also fairly similar in where the shots were mostly coming from what I’ve noticed. 

The only spots I’ve really been noticing a difference are the high slot and the right point. I’ve noticed a lot fewer shots being taken from the high slot by opponents while the Bruins are on the PK, which is excellent. However, I’ve noticed more shots are getting through from the right point, especially in their current series against the Lightning. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed this for bad reasons, as a lot of the PP goals that have been scored by the Lightning this series were off shots originating from that spot off the stick of Victor Hedman. It’s an area they will definitely want to clean up tonight by blocking more of those shots or making sure Hedman can never get them off. 

But, other than that, I think the PK has done a similarly good job in the playoffs as they did in the regular season, with the notable exception of the disastrous Game 3 against the Lightning. In fact, I could even argue it’s been better, and that Game 3’s performance brought the percentage down significantly because it did. However, at the very least. I’m confident that it’s been just as good, as they got better at one spot but worse at another, while staying largely the same in the others as near as I can tell. The spot they improved upon was statistically a medium-danger one, which is great, but to get worse from one of the points isn’t exactly great because rebounds and screens arguably make those shots even more dangerous, although in an indirect way.

Summary

In short, the Bruins did an excellent job suppressing shots from the circles and the right point during the regular season. They needed to improve in the high slot and the middle of the blue line, but other than that they were pretty good. The slot itself could’ve used a little work too, but overall it was ok. They’ve done a similarly good job on the PK in the playoffs, and possibly even a better one when you take out Game 3 against the Lightning.

As for where those shots are mainly coming from during the playoffs, they’re from most of the same spots as they were during the regular season. However, they appear to have improved in the high slot while getting worse at the right point. But, overall, the Bruins have been excellent on the PK during the playoffs, just like they were during the regular season. Here’s hoping they have a great night on it tonight and stay out of the box for the most part. If they can do that, I’ll think they’ll live to see another day in the bubble.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 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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This is Not the Bruins’ 2011 Veteran Core’s Last Hurrah

Photo Credit: John Locher/AP Photo

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

It’s no secret that the Bruins’ veteran core is aging. They’re all in their thirties at this point, or in Zdeno Chara’s case, forties. That’s why, with the Bruins being pushed to the brink of elimination from the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, many fans are saying this is probably we’ll see of this group intact. However, I truly don’t believe that will be the case. Here’s why

Chara, Rask Not Ready to Retire

The two players I see the most speculation about being done after this year are Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask. However, Chara has stated he’s not ready to be done yet, so I think he’ll play another year, although he might have a more reduced role. I know some people disagree with me and think he’s no longer a good player, but I think he is and he somehow still has some gas in the tank. I’d frankly be shocked if he retired after this season, despite being 43 years old. He’s making no indication that he’s ready to be done, and in fact it’s pretty clear he still loves playing and wants to keep going. The team has said as long as he wants to play, they’ll find a spot for him, so I’m pretty sure we’ll see him back for next season. 

As for Rask, he’s said multiple times he hasn’t even thought about retirement. He’s also said he’s looking forward to being able to negotiate a contract extension starting this summer. So, I’m not sure why that speculation is happening. You can check out more on my thoughts on his situation here. But basically just know that there is absolutely no reason to believe he’s retiring soon. His two leaves of absence were due to family emergencies so it’s wrong to make anything more out of them. He still loves the game and he’s still playing at an elite level. He clearly has a lot of gas left in the tank. So there’s absolutely no reason for him to retire soon.

Krejci, Marchand, Bergeron Still Going Strong

There are only three other players that are left from the 2011 team, and all three of them are still going incredibly strong. Bergeron and Krejci might be in their mid-thirties, but you’d never know it by watching them play. They playing as good as they did in the prime of their careers, and so it’s safe to say they both have a lot left to give. 

Krejci only has one year left on his deal, but I think he’ll re-sign with the Bruins for a few more seasons. He’s expressed interest in going to finish his career over in his home country of the Czech Republic. But, that’s a league he’ll be able to play in even if/when he declines and is no longer a great NHL player. I mean, Jaromir Jagr is still playing over in the country’s highest league, Czech Extraliga, at 48 years old. Granted, he’s part-owner of the team, but he’s still capable of playing in it even though he’s obviously not the elite player he used to be. So I’m pretty sure Krejci will be able to handle it regardless of how long he stays in North America. He’s 34 years old, but he certainly doesn’t look like it when he plays, so he’s got a while before he’s no longer an excellent player in the NHL.  

As for Bergeron, he has two years left on his deal, but he’ll surely keep playing longer than that. As long as his body holds up, I can honestly see him being like Chara. His passion for the game is obvious, and it’s clear that he has no intention of retiring anytime soon. He’s 35 years old, but he’s got a lot of gas left in the tank and barring any horrible injuries, I don’t think we have to worry about him retiring for several more years.

Marchand is the youngest player remaining from the core, and he’s not going anywhere for a really long time. Not only is the youngest and somehow still getting better at 32 years old, but he’s signed through the 2024-25 season. That’s at least five more years of Marchand, and at the rate he’s going, it’ll almost surely be longer than that. So luckily, we don’t have to worry about him leaving for a long time.

There’s a Least a Few More Runs Left in Most of This Group

In short, the Bruins have at least a few more playoff runs left in the majority of this group. Losing Chara in another year or so will sting, but at least they’ll have the rest of the 2011 core still intact. I can’t predict the future obviously, so I don’t know exactly how long they have left, but I’d be shocked if they don’t get several more runs out of this group. They’re all on the back halves of their careers, so it won’t be a ton more, but this is far from their last hurrah. It stings that they’ve likely wasted another year of these guys, but it’s certainly not time to call it quits on them for the future. But even with that in mind, obviously, let’s hope this year’s chance doesn’t end tonight.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 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.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Bruins’ Goaltender Tuukka Rask Shows No Signs of Being Ready to Retire

Photo Credit: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of speculation from Bruins fans lately that goaltender Tuukka Rask is ready to retire at the end of this season. However, I truly do not understand where that’s coming from. Any talk of it that has entered the rumor mill has been squashed by Rask himself, so, with all due respect to anybody who believes it, I’m really confused as to why it’s being talked about.

Rask’s March Remarks Have Since Been Clarified

The first time I really saw chatter about Rask retiring pick up was back in March when Matt Porter of the Boston Globe asked him after his future workload. Rask said, “I have one year left on my contract so we’ll see if I even play.” When asked if that was a real possibility as a follow-up question, he said “We’ll see. Always a possibility.” However, that’s an answer you’ll get from a lot of players if you ask a question like that. Why would they give a definitive answer when you never know what could happen between now and then? What if he got badly injured, or something else happened and he could no longer feasibly play, or if something happened that made him lose his love for the game? There’s a very slim chance of any of those things happening, but you never know.

Rask later clarified his comments and even echoed some of my above sentiments. While appearing The Greg Hill Show on WEEI, Rask was asked about those comments. Here’s the full quote, courtesy of this article by Logan Mullen of NESN.com: “Listen, I remember the interview if you can even call it an interview. This reporter asked me some questions right after practice when I was packing my bag, and all I said was my contract’s up (in 2021) so every option is on the table. I haven’t made any decisions on any direction yet, obviously we’re not even playing hockey right now, so that’ll be in the future. But it’s definitely not in my mind right now, just trying to take care of the family now and go back to hockey whenever that happens and then go from there. I’m sure we’re going to have good conversations with (Don Sweeney) after this season and go from there. But I’m only 34, so it’s not too old, might play another year or two and go from there. But I don’t want to promise anything either way because you never know what’s going to happen.” You can also check out the full interview with Greg Hill here.

Tuukka expanded on this even further back in May, and he said a lot, too much for me to include here, so check out most of his comments here, via Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. Or, you can watch the video in the embedded tweet above for his full comments. But, at one point, he said “I haven’t thought about retirement at all.” So, he’s made it clear on several occasions now that he’s not planning on retiring anytime soon. But, for some reason, people still choose to believe those comments back in March. He would not have clarified them two times now and said both times he hadn’t even thought about retirement and that he was planning on playing beyond this contract if he at all felt that he may not.

His Leaves of Absence Don’t Prove Anything

I think part of the reason the Rask retirement speculation is ramping back up is that he’s opted out of the playoffs. But, with all due respect, it’s completely unfair of anybody to say that. He left the bubble because one of his daughters had a medical emergency and he wanted to be with her, per Greg Hill of WEEI. You can’t fault him for that because that’s what any good parent would do. It doesn’t matter that he’s a pro athlete; these players are human beings and family comes first for them, as it should. It’s not like he opted out just because he felt like it. He didn’t do it because he doesn’t love the game anymore. He did it in spite of that. 

People also bring up his leave back in November of 2018 as an example. But again, it’s not fair of people to use that against him. It was another family-related issue, and he was only gone for three days, after which he went on a tear. That should show people that he only stepped away because he had to, and it was what was best for both him in the team because he was struggling up until that point. Again, these players are human, and they have problems just like everyone else. They aren’t robots who are just here for our entertainment. They don’t owe use anything. We need to stop treating them like they do.

I truly don’t understand how people are taking leaves of absences for family reasons as a sign that he doesn’t love hockey anymore and is ready to retire. Family always comes first, no matter what. If he didn’t truly love the game, he would never have left his family behind to go to the bubble in the first place. He would’ve just stayed home with them. But he went. It’s clear that he still loves the game. There’s no way he retires unless something huge happens and he’s forced to. 

Potential Regular-Season Bubbles Likely Wouldn’t Affect Him Playing

Even if they are in bubbles to at least start the regular season, I think he’ll play. He seems to have told GM Don Sweeney that, as Sweeney said in his press conference right after it happened that he’d still be the same great goalie when he came back next year (see the embedded tweet for his full remarks). They know at this point that there’s a decent chance they’ll have to play in bubbles again, so he wouldn’t have given Sweeney any indication that he’s going to play next year if that wasn’t the case. He was willing to leave his family this time until an emergency happened, so I can’t see why it’d be much different. 

Another reason I don’t think another bubble situation will be an issue is that I have a feeling the players won’t agree to leave their families again. If they left them behind for the regular season, it’d be for far longer than it has been for the playoffs. Players are already struggling with it being for that long, so I can’t see any scenario in which they’re willing to do it for longer, especially since it’s just the regular season and not the playoffs. I think the NHL is working on a plan to make sure families can come too, or they can at least see them somehow. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t, as any player with a significant other and/or kids is going to push very hard for it. It’s not fair to ask them to leave again. I honestly don’t think they’d be willing to. You’d see a significant number of players opt-out and almost surely from every team, so at that point it wouldn’t really be fair to play.

Barring Exceptional and Unforseen Circumstances, Rask Will Be Back

So, in short, I don’t think Rask will be retiring after this season. There’s really no reason to believe he would. It’s not right to assume that he doesn’t love the game just because he prioritized his family and left the bubble because his daughter had a medical emergency. Outside of that, he’s only 34, has one year left on his deal, and hasn’t said or done anything that should lead people to believe he’s considering it. So I’m really not sure why there’s so much speculation that he will. I’d be shocked to see him retire after next season too. He still loves the game and is still playing it at an elite level, so why would he? It just makes no sense. 

Shocked would not be a strong enough word to describe how I’d feel if he did, barring any exceptional and unforeseen circumstances. In fact, I’m pretty confident saying that one of the young goalies will be ready to take over for him by the time that he’s ready to call it quits, and that’s at least a few years down the road. So don’t fret, Bruins fans. We’ll still have our number one goaltender for a while.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 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.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

An Introduction to Bruins Player and Team Good/Bad/Fun/Dull Graphs

Photo Credit: Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

Perhaps my favorite type of hockey analytic graph is the good/bad//fun/dull graph. Once you know what you’re looking at, they’re easy to read and display a ton of information. However, not everyone knows exactly what they mean, and so I thought it would be good to write an introductory article to them before I start really analyzing them.

The number one thing that seems to throw people off with these graphs is what exactly each classification means. Everyone knows the concept of good and bad, but what are the others telling us? What exactly does good and bad tell you about the team’s performance relative to their opponents? I’m going to explain each of these classifications relative to actual graphs first, as I think it makes it much easier to understand. I’ll then provide a general overview of how to read a team and player graph at the end. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the explanations of these graphs.

A Brief Explanation of How the Graph is Set Up

Before I begin explaining which each classification means, let’s go over how the graph is set up. The x-axis of each graph increases from left to right, while the y-axis is inverted and decreases as you go up. This is primarily because it makes the graph more pleasing to the eye, and therefore easier to read.

If you did not invert the y-axis, you would have “good” and “dull” on the bottom of the graph, while “bad” and “fun” would be on the bottom. This is confusing to the brain, as we are taught to look at graphs where the more to the upper-right of it you are, the better it is. Meanwhile, the more to the lower-left you are, the worse it is. So, it makes sense to invert the y-axis, as it’s the only way you can have “good” in the upper right corner, and “bad” in the lower-left corner.

Good/Bad/Fun/Dull Relative to Team Expected Goal Rates

Starting off with a team graph, in the above embedded tweet, you’ll find a good/bad/dull/fun graph of a team’s expected goal rate. This graph concerns teams that made the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and is as of the games on August 30th, 2020. The teams you see that are grayed out are the ones that have been eliminated from the playoffs at the time of this graph, while the ones that have color are still in.

Moving on to the explanation, the x-axis of this expected goals rate graph concerns the expected goals for per 60 of the team (xGF60). That’s the number of goals each team is expected to get per 60 minutes. The y-axis is the expected goals against per 60 of the team (xGA60). That’s the number of goals let up by each team per 60 minutes. The x-axis is from 1.6 to 3.2 xGF60, while the y-axis is from 3.2 to 1.6 xGA60 since it’s inverted. I will be referring to the xGF60 as goals per game (GPG) from this point on, as it’s easier, and unless the game goes to OT, 60 minutes is the length of a game (as you already know). I’ll be referring to xGA60 as goals against per game (GAPG) for the same reason.

Good and Fun

A team is considered “good” if they score between 2.270 and 3.2 GPG, while only letting up between 2.293 and 1.6 GAPG. Obviously, this is the part of the graph teams aim to be in, as it means they’re expected to score more goals than they’ll let up, which obviously means they’ll win the game.

A team makes its way into the “fun” part of the graph if they score between 2.270  and 3.2 GPG, while letting up between 2.293 and 3.2 GAPG. Fun is a relative term here. It means the teams are fun to watch, but at the same time, fans are probably having minor heart attacks while watching the games. It means the games are high-octane offensively, but typically not good defensively. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be in this section as long as a team is expected to score more goals than they’re expected to let up; however, for obvious reasons, it’s certainly better to aim more for the “good” section.

Bad and Dull

“Bad” teams are ones that only score between 1.6 and 2.270 GPG, while letting up between 2.293 GAPG and 3.2 GAPG. It goes without saying that this is the section of the graph to avoid at all costs. It means you’re expected to get scored on more than you’re expected to score, which obviously means you’ll lose the game. It’s deeply unfortunate albeit unsurprising that the Bruins find themselves a little bit in this section, especially given the Game 3 fiasco.

Finally, we have the “dull” teams. These teams are the ones that are scoring between 1.6 and 2.270 GPG, while letting up between 2.293 and 1.6 GAPG. Dull teams are the ones who are usually rather boring to watch, as they aren’t scoring a lot of goals and they aren’t having many scored on them. Like the fun section, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be in it; however, it’s much better to be in the good section. Dull teams are often playing in tight, low-scoring games, which again isn’t necessarily bad, but it shouldn’t be the goal either.

Good/Bad/Fun/Dull Relative to Player Expected Goal Rates

Moving on to a player graph, in the above embedded tweet, you’ll find a good/bad/dull/fun graph of players’ expected goal rate. This graph concerns players in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and is as of the games on August 30th, 2020. I’ve configured it so just Bruins players are highlighted, as those are really the only ones we care about here at BNG.

Good and Fun

A player finds himself in the “good” portion of these graphs if he’s expected to score between 2.315 and 4.5 GPG, while only being on the ice for between 2.293 and 1.0 GAPG. Just like with the teams, obviously this is the section a player wants to be in. However, it is not realistic to assume every player will get here. It all depends on usage. So, these graphs should never be considered without context as to which line or pairing each player is on, and therefore their usage. If they’re performing as expected, the context of their usage matters more than their placement on the graph. You can’t expect a fourth-liner to be in the “good” section, for example, just as it’s a horrible sign if a first-liner is in the “bad” section. 

For example, you’d expect top line players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak to all be in the “good” section, or at least at the top half of the “fun” section (more on that one shortly). Thankfully, they all are. That’s how you expect them to be: great offensively as well as defensively, and so on the ice for more goals for than against.

As for the fun section, a player will land himself here if he scores between 2.315 and 4.5 GPG, while also letting up between 2.293 and 4.5 GAPG. Much like with the teams’ graph, fun is a relative term. It means a player is on the ice for a lot of goals for, but also for a lot of goals against. It’s fun to watch, but also not good for fans’ blood pressure. Also, just like with the “good” section, usage matters more than their placement on the graph, provided they’re performing as expected.

Playing style also has an impact on where players place on the graph, primarily in a section such as “fun” or “dull.” This is because if a player is high-octane offensively, but not overly solid defensively, they’re bound to end up in the “fun” section because the team should score a ton while they’re on the ice, but they’re also going to get scored on a lot. This is also true of a first-pairing defender like Charlie McAvoy, who’s used a lot in offensive situations as well as important defensive situations. Naturally, he’s going to be on the ice for a lot of goals for but also a lot against. It’s just the nature of his usage and style. It’s not ideal for a player to be in this section, but it’s usually fine (albeit likely terrifying), especially if they’re expected to be on the ice for more goals for than against.

Bad and Dull

“Bad” players are ones that only score between 1.0 and 2.315 GPG, while letting up somewhere between 2.293 and 4.5 GAPG. While this is the section to avoid at all costs on the teams’ graphs, that’s not necessarily true for a player graph. While obviously nobody wants to be on the ice for more goals against than for, it is completely unrealistic to expect that no one will be. The context in terms of usage is huge for player graphs. Fourth-liners are extremely likely to be in the “bad” section of the graph, but that doesn’t mean their bad players. It just means they’re used in a more defensive role and so they don’t score a lot, which leads them to be on the ice for more goals against than for.

So, it makes sense for fourth-liners like Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Joakim Nordstrom to be in the “bad” section. They don’t chip in much offensively, and they’re used in a lot of minute-eating defensive situations. So, they’re going to find themselves getting scored on more than they’re scoring, which is fine, because that’s what their usage lends itself to and that’s what’s expected of them. However, if you had someone like Bergeron, Marchand, or Pastrnak in the “bad” section, that’d be a problem because they’re expected to score more than they’re scored against, and it’s what their usage lends itself to.

Finally, we have “dull” players. These are the players that are on the ice for between 1.0 and 2.316 GPG, while they let up between 2.293 and 1.0 GPG. Players fall into this category if they’re typically on the ice when the game is boring to watch. Just like with the “fun” section, usage and playing style matter more than their placement though. A player who’s solid defensively but doesn’t add a ton of offense is likely to find himself here. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as they’re performing as expected, it’s fine, just not exactly exciting.

A Final General Overview of These Graphs

The concepts of the explanations I provided above can be used for any good/bad/fun/dull graph. I simply used that as an example as I feel it’s easier to grasp if you see it spelled out for a specific situation. But, here’s a final general overview of each concept.

For team graphs, “good” means the team is expected to do signficantly more good than bad, while “fun” means the team is going to do a lot good, but also find a lot of bad happening. For a team to be “bad,” they have to be just that, and do a lot more bad than good, while “dull” just means that they aren’t doing much of anything good or bad. 

As for the player graphs, if a player is in the “good” section, either they’re doing a lot more good than bad themselves, or their team is expected to do so on the ice. “Fun” means they’re doing a lot good but also a lot bad, or their team is doing that while they’re on the ice. For a player to land himself in the “bad” section, either he has to be doing a lot more good than bad himself, or his team has to be doing so while he’s on the ice. Finally, a “dull” player is one who is not doing much good or bad himself, or his team isn’t while he’s on the ice.

I hope this helps explain these graphs. For those who like analytics, they tell a lot about a team or a player in an easily digestible way, so I think they’re really useful. If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, I’m always happy to try and answer them! Once the playoffs are over for the Bruins, keep an eye out for a series of articles using these graphs that compares the Bruins’ performance in the regular season to their performance in the postseason!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 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!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

It’s Only a Matter of Time Before the Bruins Power Play Gets Rolling Again

( Photo Credit: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group-Boston Herald )

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me On Twitter @lydia_murray12

A few weeks ago, I published articles on how the Bruins were offensively and defensively this season using shot heatmaps. You can find those here and here, respectively. They haven’t looked like that team since returning to play, but I’m not worried about that given the exhibition-like nature of those games. The real ones start tonight, as they face off against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs at 8pm.

Before the game starts, I wanted to take a look at how they were on the power play (PP) in the regular season. It hasn’t been productive at all since play started back up, but hopefully they can turn it around soon. I have faith they will, because as you’ll see, it was outstanding during the regular season. These next two sections are taken directly from the two articles from earlier, so if you’ve already ready them, feel free to skip. If you haven’t, or just want a refresher, read on!

Please note, these graphs are just from the regular season games, so they do not include the round robin games. I will also just be analyzing the play of the PP from before the pause. Finally, I will mainly be mentioning the first power play unit when I break down the spots, which typically consisted of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, and Torey Krug. This is because they were the most consistent unit in terms of personnel, and they got the majority of the ice time on the PP and were easily the most productive. But, these heatmaps are not only of the first unit, so keep that in mind when you’re looking at them.

A Short Introduction to Shot Heatmaps

Before I begin, here’s a short overview of how to read these heatmaps for those of you who don’t know or need a refresher. This is just a basic overview of how these heatmaps work. If you want to see a really in-depth analysis, you can check one out (albeit of the San Jose Sharks) here. But anyway, these maps illustrate the number of unblocked shots (not necessarily on goal) for or against a team compared to the league average, and where those shots are coming from. Blue means that fewer unblocked shots are generated from a given spot than the league average, whereas red means more are generated than the league average. The deeper the color, the further away from the league average a team is from that spot. White means that shots are being generated at the league average from that particular spot. 

With this in mind, on offensive graphs, blue is good, and red is bad. Obviously, you want your team to be generating a ton of shots, and ideally, they’ll be producing more than most other teams. On the other hand, for defensive graphs, the opposite is true. When an area is blue, it means that team is letting less unblocked shots through than the league average. It goes without saying that’s a great thing. The fewer shots that get through unblocked, the fewer chances an opponent gets to score. 

Defining Areas of the Ice

Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

Before I get started with the actual heatmaps, there’s just a few more things I want to go over. Pictured above is an example of the heatmaps you’ll see in this article as it was directly on the website. This is great on its own, but I decided to add a few more things to aid in my analysis.

Original Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

As you’ll see, I’ve added a box and a trapezoid to the above graph (as well as made the crease more obvious). My apologies for the subpar photo editing job, I don’t have access to the best software and I’m not too skilled at it either. But, it’s good enough for the purposes of this article. Please note, these outlines may be off a little bit, but if they are, it’s not by much as I was as exact as possible with the tools I had. 

I’ve added these areas to aid in my analysis of these graphs. The box area I have outlined is known as the “slot”, and shots from this area are considered “high danger”. The trapezoid is known as just that, and shots from that area are considered “medium danger”. Shots from anywhere else on the ice are considered “low danger.” According to this article, in the high danger area, shots have at least a 10% chance of going in. The article also says that shots from the medium danger area have a 3-10% chance of going in, while low danger shots have at most a 3% chance of going in. 

To be clear, those percentages are averages, as some shots obviously stand a better chance of going in than others, even from within those areas. For example, a shot from the backdoor of the net that’s wide open has a much better shot than one that’s coming from right out front with the goalie square to it. But anyway, with all of that out of the way now, let’s get into the actual analysis these things.

Now, Onto the Analysis

Original Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

Almost the Whole Left Side Was Outstanding

The Bruins shot at an above league average rate for almost the entire left side during the regular season. That’s simply incredible. The best spots on the left side were unsurprisingly in Pastrnak’s office, which is the left circle, and particularly any area to the left of the dot. The Bruins shot at a shot per hour rate above the league average in three spots in those areas. To put it in perspective, there’s usually only a couple of shots per power play, and only a couple of PP’s per game. So, to be that much above league average from one spot is absolutely amazing. Again, it’s not overly surprising though given that’s Pastrnak’s office and the Bruins love setting him up for his trademark one-timer on the PP.

The Bruins are also excellent from the left point, which is Krug’s favorite spot. So, again, it’s not exactly surprising they shot so well from there. But, that doesn’t make it any less impressive that they produced at a rate of 0.5-1 more shots per hour than the league average from there. This is especially true considering they already had three spots on the left side where they shot at shot per hour above-average rate. Considering there are usually very few shots on the PP, it’s mind-boggling to think that the Bruins had so many areas of the ice where they are that much above the average in the regular season. It goes to show that they were really that good this year, and not just really lucky.

Bumper Area and Right Circle Were Amazing Too

Another area of the ice where the Bruins were incredible on the PP is the bumper. And yet again, it’s not surprising. That’s Bergeron’s spot, and he’s one of the best power play bumpers in the league. He has such a quick release it’s hard for goalies to make a save, especially considering he’s not that far out. But anyway, as you can see from the map, the Bruins are shooting at a 0.8-1 shots per hour above-average rate throughout most of the bumper area. Just like the left point is made even more impressive by how many other spots on the ice the Bruins were shooting significantly above average from, the bumper is too.

Yet another area of the ice where the Bruins shot significantly above the league average is most of the right circle. That’s primarily Marchand’s domain on the first PP unit, although the Bruins are known for rotating around a lot on the power play, so he’s not the only one who ends up shooting from that spot. If he was, I’d be really surprised the Bruins shot as well as they did from spots over there. Even with that in mind, while I’m really happy about it, Marchand didn’t seem to shoot as much as the others, so it’s a bit surprising. 

Anyway, it’s possible that the league average is lower on the right side than in those spots. This would explain why the Bruins were still so far above the league average when they didn’t seem to take as many shots from that area as they did others. But, that shouldn’t make it less impressive that the Bruins have yet another area of the ice where they were way above the league average.

Right Point Really the Only Spot That Needed Work

Assuming the Bruins PP returns to its regular season glory soon, the only spot the Bruins could really work on shooting more from in the playoffs is the right point. Krug usually stays further to the left, so it’s not surprising there’s a lower volume of shots to the right. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t improve over there. The first PP unit is known for rotating around a lot, so Marchand (or someone else) could easily rotate up there and get some shots off.

If they start shooting more from there, it’d make it so the PKers would have to anticipate that happening and spread their box out more to cover for it. That’s exactly what you want on the PP. The more spread out they are, the more lanes everyone has to shoot through, which should almost certainly result in more goals. So, hopefully once the Bruins’ PP returns to normal, they work on getting more shots off from that spot.

Summary

Simply put, this PP heatmap is amazing. This isn’t surprising, given the Bruins had the second-best PP in the league (behind only the Oilers) in the regular season with an outstanding 25.2% conversion rate. So, I expected to see them shooting above average in a lot of places. But, I honestly didn’t think it’d be this good. It’s truly amazing that the Bruins shot as far above the league average as they did from as many spots as they did in the regular season. To only have one significant spot (the right point) where you’re shooting below the league average is incredible. 

It goes to show that the Bruins’ PP was really that good in the regular season, and not just really lucky. That’s why I have faith that the power play we saw in the exhibition game and the round-robin is not the one we’ll continue to see. I think the one we’ve been seeing in these past few weeks was a result of not having a lot of time to practice it and the fact that the Bruins weren’t playing their best. As good as they were, it’s only a matter of time before it returns to its regular-season glory. Once that happens, provided the team picks it up and plays better (which they almost certainly will now that the games actually matter), the Bruins will be in great shape to hopefully make another deep run.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 188 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.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Looking Ahead to the Playoffs, Where Were the Bruins’ Strengths and Weaknesses Defensively in the Regular Season?

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images )

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me On Twitter @lydia_murray12

Earlier today, I published an article using an offensive shot heatmap from on the Bruins’ 2019-20 season to analyze their shot patterns and identify areas for them to work on in the playoffs. You can check that out here. Now, let’s take a look at how they were defensively in the 2019-20 season, and what areas they need to work on in the playoffs. Keep an eye out for another article coming later some heatmaps of power play and penalty kill. Also, be on the look for a deep dive one using skater good/bad/fun/dull graphs!

A Short Introduction to Shot Heatmaps

Before I begin, here’s a short overview of how to read these heatmaps for those of you who don’t know or need a refresher. This is the exact same intro I did on my first article, as is the “defining areas” of the ice section. So, if you’ve already read that one, you can probably skip right over this. But, if you didn’t, or just want another refresher, read on.

This is just a basic overview of how these heatmaps work. If you want to see a really in-depth analysis, you can check one out (albeit of the San Jose Sharks) here. But anyway, these maps illustrate the number of unblocked shots (not necessarily on goal) for or against a team compared to the league average, and where those shots are coming from. Blue means that fewer unblocked shots are generated from a given spot than the league average, whereas red means more are generated than the league average. The deeper the color, the further away from the league average a team is from that spot. White means that shots are being generated at the league average from that particular spot. 

With this in mind, on offensive graphs, blue is good, and red is bad. Obviously, you want your team to be generating a ton of shots, and ideally, they’ll be producing more than most other teams. On the other hand, for defensive graphs, the opposite is true. When an area is blue, it means that team is letting less unblocked shots through than the league average. It goes without saying that’s a great thing. The fewer shots that get through unblocked, the fewer chances an opponent gets to score. 

Defining Areas of the Ice

Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

Before I get started with the actual heatmaps, there’s just a few more things I want to go over. Pictured above is an example of the heatmaps you’ll see in this article as it was directly on the website. This is great on its own, but I decided to add a few more things to aid in my analysis. 

Original Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

As you’ll see, I’ve added a box and a trapezoid to the above graph (as well as made the crease more obvious). My apologies for the subpar photo editing job, I don’t have access to the best software and I’m not too skilled at it either. But, it’s good enough for the purposes of this article. Please note, these outlines may be off a little bit, but if they are, it’s not by much as I was as exact as possible with the tools I had. 

I’ve added these areas to aid in my analysis of these graphs. The box area I have outlined is known as the “slot”, and shots from this area are considered “high danger”. The trapezoid is known as just that, and shots from that area are considered “medium danger”. Shots from anywhere else on the ice are considered “low danger.” According to this article, in the high danger area, shots have at least a 10% chance of going in. The article also says that shots from the medium danger area have a 3-10% chance of going in, while low danger shots have at most a 3% chance of going in. 

To be clear, those percentages are averages, as some shots obviously stand a better chance of going in than others, even from within those areas. For example, a shot from the backdoor of the net that’s wide open has a much better shot than one that’s coming from right out front with the goalie square to it. But anyway, with all of that out of the way now, let’s get into the actual analysis these things.

Now, Onto the Actual Analysis

Original Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

Outstanding Defense in the Slot

The first thing that sticks out to me here is the same thing that stuck out to me on the offensive map, except this time, it’s good. The Bruins do an incredible job of suppressing or blocking shots throughout the entire slot. In most of the slot, the excess shots per hour rate is -0.5. That’s 5 fewer shots that get through per hour from those spots than the league average. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s actually incredible. Think about it, teams usually average 30-40 shots a game. So, to have, on average, five fewer shots than the league average getting through from one particular area of the ice, is outstanding.

The slot is the area the “high danger” shots come from. That means statistically, it’s the most dangerous area of the ice for goals off the initial shot. So, for the Bruins to be defending it that well is an excellent sign. Between that and how good their goalies are, it’s no surprise the Bruins let up as few goals as they do.

Excellent in the Left Circle Too

Another area the Bruins are excellent at defending according to this map is the left circle. There’s a red spot in the left of the circle, but it’s in the “low danger” scoring chance area and at a bad angle to the net, so it’s really not a concern. They can’t defend everywhere on the ice above league average, and if there’s a good spot to defend a little below the league average, that’s it.  

Other than that spot, the Bruins do an excellent job of defending the left circle. They’re not as good there as they are in the slot, but it’s close. They also don’t have to be as good defending there, as it’s statistically a less dangerous area of the ice for initial shots. They let about two or three less unblocked shots get through from that spot in an average game, and that’s great. It means they don’t let a lot of one-timers through on the left side, as the circles are really popular places for them, which is good news. One-timers are the initial shots that beat goalies the most because they have way less time to react and then get their feet set before the puck is there. So, the less of them they let through, the better.

Left Point Good and Bad

The Bruins defend the lower right portion of the left point about as well as they defend most of the left circle. That’s great news because it means they’re getting in the primary lane to the net from the point. That means a lot less unblocked shots are getting through from the point than would otherwise, which means fewer chances for players to pounce on the big, juicy rebounds those shots often produce. That’s always a good thing.

That being said, the lower left side of the left point could use some work. But, I am far less concerned about this spot than the right point (more on that later). Most of the red area over there is at a weird angle to the net. While that could make it more likely to sneak past the goalie on the first shot than one that’s straight on, not a lot of goals are scored on initial point shots. It’s statistically a “low danger” area of the ice, so it isn’t a huge concern. Point shots are really only dangerous because of the great (for the attacking team) rebounds they often produce. But, shots from that particular spot on the point will most likely produce a weird rebound or one that’s easily cleared away by defenders due to the bad angle it’s at to the net. So, while it’s a bit of a concern and should be worked on a little bit, it shouldn’t be as high of a priority as some of the other spots.

Right Circle Could Be Better, Could Be Worse

As for the right circle on the ice, the Bruins defend at about the league average for most of it. That’s not bad, but it could always be better. Who wants to be average when you can be above average? Thankfully, there are also a few random blue spots (albeit light ones) in the “medium danger” trapezoid. This likely means that they’re right at the top of the league average, right on the edge of being slightly above average. That’s obviously a good thing.

However, in the “low danger” portion of it, there’s a sizeable red spot. But, it’s a light red, meaning they aren’t too much worse than the league average from there. Plus, it’s statistically a “low danger” area for initial shots, so it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, it’s at a weird angle to the net, which means there won’t be good rebounds from it. So, it’s really not that big of a deal. Obviously, it’d be nice if they’d work on it a bit, as you can never defend too well. But, they can’t possibly defend at or above the league average all over the ice. If there’s such a thing as a good spot to defend worse than league average, that’d be one of the big ones (same would be true of the left side, but the Bruins are good there).

Right Point Needs Work

The Bruins are significantly below average in shot suppression or blocking shots coming from the right point. That’s not good. While point shots on their own are not particularly dangerous, they often produce big rebounds that are. Shots from that far away are extremely hard for a goalie to control. So, they often pop out in what end up being perfect spots for an opponent to pounce on and bury before the goalie has a chance to reset. Rebounds are the most common way goals are scored, so gifting them to the other team is not a good idea. 

If the Bruins are going to pick any particular area to work on defending better, it needs to be the right point. It apparently didn’t hurt them that much in the regular season, as they had the fewest goals against in the entire league for the entire season. But, in the playoffs, that could get exposed, as teams have more time to figure out their opponent’s weaknesses, and they’ll surely notice it and take advantage of it. So, it’s something that should really be worked on before it starts to cost them.

Summary

In short, the Bruins did a lot good defensively this season. That’s not surprising given they led the league in the fewest goals against for the entire season. They deny the shots at a rate of five fewer a game (on average) for much of the slot, which is absolutely incredible. ’re They’re also strong in the left circle, as well as parts of the left point, albeit at not quite as strong as they are in the slot. But, it’s not quite as big of a deal there, as it’s statistically a lower danger area of the ice.

On the other hand, the right side of the ice could use some work, most notably the right point. If they don’t improve the right point at least, it will most likely be exposed in the playoffs, and they’ll end up paying for it. So, hopefully they work on it. As for the rest of the right side, even though they’re largely league average there, it would benefit them to improve. You can never defend too well. Although that being said, it’s impossible for them to defend above league average (or even at the league average) all over the ice. So, it’s expected that they have some spots where they aren’t as good.

But, overall, the Bruins were excellent defensively this season. They did a great job of defending the most dangerous areas of the ice with the exception of the right point. If they can improve that, they’ll be even harder to score on these playoffs than they were in the regular season. That should seriously scare any team who may have to play. But, for us as Bruins fans, it’s certainly a wonderful thing.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 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.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

With An Eye On the Playoffs, What Were The Bruins’ Shot Patterns In 2019-20?

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports )

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me On Twitter @lydia_murray12

Advanced stats are becoming more common in hockey analysis these days. I’m a firm believer that you should never just pay attention to them but instead watch the player as a whole and do the good old-fashioned eye test. But, advanced stats do have a lot of merit, especially when trying to figure out why things are happening the way they are. With the round-robin tournament just two days away now, I decided to take a deeper dive into this Bruins team. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at some shot heatmaps for the Bruins offense at 5v5. Keep an eye out for an article coming soon with a heatmap of their defense and another with some heatmaps of power play and penalty kill. Also, be on the look for a deep dive one using skater good/bad/fun/dull graphs!

A Short Introduction to Shot Heatmaps

Before I begin, here’s a short overview of how to read these heatmaps for those of you who don’t know or need a refresher. This is just a basic overview of how these heatmaps work. If you want to see a really in-depth analysis, you can check one out (albeit of the San Jose Sharks) here. But anyway, these maps illustrate the number of unblocked shots (not necessarily on goal) for or against a team compared to the league average, and where those shots are coming from. Blue means that fewer unblocked shots are generated from a given spot than the league average, whereas red means more are generated than the league average. The deeper the color, the further away from the league average a team is from that spot. White means that shots are being generated at the league average from that particular spot. 

With this in mind, on offensive graphs, blue is good, and red is bad. Obviously, you want your team to be generating a ton of shots, and ideally, they’ll be producing more than most other teams. On the other hand, for defensive graphs, the opposite is true. When an area is blue, it means that team is letting less unblocked shots through than the league average. It goes without saying that’s a great thing. The fewer shots that get through unblocked, the fewer chances an opponent gets to score. 

Defining Areas of the Ice

Heatmap Taken From hockeyviz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

Before I get started with the actual heatmaps, there’s just a few more things I want to go over. Pictured above is an example of the heatmaps you’ll see in this article as it was directly on the website. This is great on its own, but I decided to add a few more things to aid in my analysis. 

Original Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

As you’ll see, I’ve add a box and a trapezoid to the above graph (as well as made the crease more obvious). My apologies for the subpar photo editing job, I don’t have access to the best software and I’m not too skilled at it either. But, it’s good enough for the purposes of this article. Please note, these outlines may be off a little bit, but if they are, it’s not by much as I was as exact as possible with the tools I had. 

( Graphic Credit: War-On-Ice.com )

I’ve added these areas to aid in my analysis of these graphs. The box area I have outlined is known as the “slot”, and shots from this area are considered “high danger”. The trapezoid is known as just that, and shots from that area are considered “medium danger”. Shots from anywhere else on the ice are considered “low danger.” According to this article, in the high danger area, shots have at least a 10% chance of going in. The article also says that shots from the medium danger area have a 3-10% chance of going in, while low danger shots have at most a 3% chance of going in. 

To be clear, those percentages are averages, as some shots obviously stand a better chance of going in than others, even from within those areas. For example, a shot from the backdoor of the net that’s wide open has a much better shot than one that’s coming from right out front with the goalie square to it. But anyway, with all of that out of the way now, let’s get into the actual analysis these things.

Now, It’s Time To Analyze This Heatmap

Original Heatmap Taken From HockeyViz.com Courtesy of Micah Black McCurdy

Low Slot Bad, High Slot Good

The first thing that pops out to me when looking at this map is unfortunately not a good thing. As you can see, the Bruins are significantly below the league average in getting unblocked shots off in the slot, particularly right in front of the net. Granted, it’s a difficult task since there’s usually a lot of bodies there, but that’s not an excuse given they’re doing worse than most other teams. It’s disappointing. However, what this map doesn’t count is rebounds, and the Bruins get a lot of those in front of the net, so I don’t think they’re as bad there as this map makes them look. But regardless, it’s something they can definitely work on in the playoffs.

But, at the same time, they’re above the league average right at the top of the slot, and in my opinion, that’s a more dangerous spot. I’ve been taught to move out towards this area as a high school player, as it often results in more goals being scored. The same is true in the pros. Defensemen typically stay closer to the net, as there’s usually at least one player there, so the further out you move, the less likely they are to stick right to you. You often become the center’s problem at that point. So, you’re still covered by a player, but, it’s better to be covered by the center. 

Why is it better to be covered by a center than a defenseman you may ask? Well, sometimes they’re easier to get away from, but that’s not always the case (Bergeron is a prime example of this). So, the biggest reason that being covered by the center is better is if the defensemen are closer to the net, as well as a forward or two, that’s a lot of bodies that you can use as screens for the goalie. If a goalie can’t see the puck, they can’t stop it (unless it hits them). So, while it’s disappointing to see so much blue closer the net, it’s nice to see a higher volume of shots from a little further out.

Bumper/High Slot Area Good

That whole red blob that’s mainly in the trapezoid but spills into the slot a little bit (right in the power play bumper area) is nice to see. It’s a great spot to shoot from because if the initial shot doesn’t go in, there’s typically a good rebound from that far out. Rebounds are how most goals are scored, and once you get in too close, there usually isn’t a good one. Goalies are better able to control shots from close in, and even if they can’t, it usually gets cleared by defensemen. Shooting from further out and getting those big rebounds means there’s a much better chance that someone will be able to jump on it and bury it. So, even though those aren’t technically considered “high danger” shots, they can be more dangerous than those that are, because most goals, especially in the NHL, don’t come from the initial shot, but from rebounds.

Left Circle Unsurprisingly Excellent

Another solid spot the Bruins shoot from according to this map is the left circle. This is unsurprising, as the Bruins have a lot of big shooters on that side. In particular, that’s where Pastrnak typically lets off his one-timer. For those that are a bit confused by that since he’s a right wing, it’s common to see players switch sides in the offensive zone, especially if they shoot different ways. That way, their sticks are in the center of the ice, meaning their forehand is towards the net. Otherwise, they have shoot across their body, which is not ideal from an angle standpoint, and it gives goalies that extra split second to get ready, which can make all the difference. It’s also much more difficult to one-time a puck on your off-hand, so all around it just makes sense to switch sides.

As good as most of the left circle is, there’s a big spot starting in the top of the left circle where the Bruins are shooting a little below the league average. That’s never great, but, the Bruins are never going to be shooting league average or above from every inch of the ice. It’s impossible for them to. So, with that in mind, if there are good spots for them to be shooting below league average from, that’s one of the big ones.

For the most part, it’s a weird angle to the net, especially if it’s a left shot player. Weird angle shots are not good because it’s lucky if it goes in on the initial shot, and if it doesn’t, it isn’t going to produce a good rebound. The angle a puck goes in at is the angle it comes back out at, so in all likelihood, that puck would be heading to the corner off a rebound (if it goes anywhere). It’s no good to anyone over there. So, yeah, it’s an area they could work on. But, it’s not a concern for me, even though much of it’s considered “medium danger” scoring chances. I’m sure it’s not for them either, as it’s not a big spot goals are scored or good rebounds are produced from.

Lots of Shots From the Left Point Too

One final spot the Bruins are particularly good at getting unblocked shots off in is the left point (up by/on the blue line). Again, this is not surprising. For starters, Chara fires off his slapshots from that spot, and those aren’t typically blocked. They’re so hard players don’t have time to react and step in front of them before they’re through (not that they’d want to). Plus, he usually doesn’t shoot unless he has a clear line.

But, the bigger reason the Bruins shoot from such a high volume at that spot is Krug. He’s the Bruins top offensive defenseman and is certainly not afraid to let a lot of shots fly. Yes, they get blocked sometimes, but he shoots so often, he makes up for the ones that are. His shots are also hard enough that, like Chara’s, players don’t typically have enough time to react and step in front of it once he lets it loose. 

So, it makes perfect sense that the Bruins would be significantly above league average in this spot. It’s also a good thing because even though point shots don’t go in that often (despite the screens that typically form), they produce massive rebounds that can easily be pounced on by another player. Again, most goals in the NHL come from rebounds, not the initial shot, so shots from anywhere that typically produce good rebounds are great in my book.

Shooting More From the Right Circle Would Be Great

One area they should work on shooting at least a little more from in the playoffs is the right side. In a playoff series, it’ll be easier for a team to figure out how to shut them down from one particular spot, and they’ll almost certainly focus on that left circle. Yes, they (and especially Pastrnak) will probably still get a lot of shots through. But, if they can start shooting more from the right circle, it’ll catch the other team off guard. That’s a good thing. Plus, it’ll make it a lot harder for them to focus on just shutting down the left side.

The more they can spread out the defensemen, the better off they’ll be. Less concentrated defensive coverage will mean even more unblocked shots get through from the left than already are, which will almost certainly result in more goals. Plus, an increased volume of shots from the right should mean more will get through unblocked, which should result in a lot more goals too. 

The Same Goes For the Right Point

I’d like to see them get more shots off from the right point in the playoffs for the same reasons I want to see more from the right circle. According to the heatmap, they’re around league average for most of it. That’s not awful obviously, but it’s a missed opportunity. Just like shooting from the right circle more will, shooting more from the right point will spread their opponents out more.

This will open up more lanes on both sides to get shots through, which almost surely means more goals. This is especially true for shots from the left point because they were already getting a lot of shots through from there despite already having a little more focus on them. So, if that side starts getting defended looser, they’ll be able to get even more through.

Summary

In short, the Bruins did a lot of things well shooting-wise this season. But, there are also a few areas they could work on for the playoffs. For the most part, they did a great job of getting a lot of unblocked shot through from the left side of the ice. They also did a good job of shooting from the bumper/high slot area, which, even though it’s classified as “medium danger,” is a really dangerous spot to shoot from. It usually produces decent rebounds if the initial shot doesn’t go in, which is always a good thing since the most common way goals are scored in the NHL (and really at all levels of hockey) is off of rebounds.

As for things the Bruins need to work on shooting-wise, they really need to start shooting more from the right side of the ice. As you can see from the map, they’re mostly league average over there. Obviously, that’s not terrible. But, if they start shooting more from that side, it’ll catch teams off guard. It’ll also make it so defenders have to spread out more and not just focus on one side of the ice, which will result in more shots getting through unblocked from all sides. Obviously, that’s a good thing, and it should result in a lot more goals for the team, which is something everybody wants.

They could also stand to shoot from right in front of the net a lot more. They were really bad at getting initial shots off from there this season. But, they did get a lot of rebounds there, which were not accounted for in this heatmap. So, it’s nowhere near as bad as it seems. However, it never hurts to shoot more, especially from a “high danger” area such as that.

Overall, the Bruins did a good job of shooting from dangerous areas of the ice this season. That’s unsurprising given how good they were this season. But, it’s nice to know that in this case, the advanced stats agree with everything else. Now there’s really no denying that the Bruins were really that good offensively this past season. Let’s hope they can keep that up throughout the playoffs!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 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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Should Bruins’ David Pastrnak Have Been Nominated For the Hart Trophy?

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images )

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

The 2020 Hart Trophy finalists were announced on Monday, and much to the dismay of Bruins fans, superstar winger David Pastrnak was not one of them. According to NHL.com, the Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season. 

Considering just how good Pastrnak was this season and how valuable he was to the Bruins, one can easily argue that he was snubbed. At the very least, he was certainly worthy of a nomination. But, however disappointing it may be, for a lot of reasons, I can’t say I’m surprised.

He Plays on the Best Line in Hockey

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / USA TODAY Sports )

The biggest reason I think Pastrnak was snubbed this season is his linemates. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are some of the top players in the league, and their line is one of, and in my opinion the, best lines in hockey. It’s true their line is like a cheat code most nights. I mean, just look at the play in the video above. It’s truly remarkable the speed and precision with which they execute it, which is the result of the incredible chemistry they’ve built between them. They just always seem to know where the others are. But, because they’re so good together, Pastrnak doesn’t get the recognition he deserves (other than for scoring this year) league-wide, and even from Bruins fans sometimes, for the player he is.

Pastrnak’s not just one of the best goal scorers in the league. He’s an excellent passer and playmaker. Also, thanks to guidance from Bergeron and Marchand, Pastrnak is developing into a strong two-way player. That’s not something you can say about many of the league’s best goal scorers. Does he still have his lapses? Yeah, but that’s to be expected. What’s important is they’re getting fewer and farther between. As it stands, he’s already better defensively than a lot of the league’s top goal-scorers.

He’s Good No Matter Who He Plays With

One of the most common arguments I see from people surrounding why Pastrnak doesn’t get more recognition is that without Marchand and Bergeron, he wouldn’t be as good. But that’s simply not true. Head coach Bruce Cassidy is known for mixing his lines up, and there were several times this season where he’d split his top line up and put Pastrnak down with David Krejci to try and get some secondary scoring going.

When Cassidy did this, Pastrnak played just as well as he did on the top line. For example, look at the play he made to set up Krejci for the OT goal above. It’s just nuts, and it shows that Pastrnak’s talent didn’t go away when he was put with different linemates. So, yes, he really is that good. It’s not just Bergeron and Marchand making him look better, which they’ve been known to do with a lot of players.

The Stats Agree With the Eye Test

Don’t believe my eye test assessment alone? Let’s look at some advanced stats. 

Photo Courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com

Here’s the line tool from Natural Stat Trick. There’s a lot of stats for me to choose from here to illustrate what I mean, but I’m going to pick just Corsi-For percentage (CF%) for simplicity reasons. For those of you that don’t know, CF% is the percentage of shots on goal at even strength that are for the team when those players are on the ice. So, it’s a positive stat, and if used correctly, it can tell you a lot.

As you can see from the picture above, when intact, the trio of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak has a staggering 58.56 CF%. That’s an incredible percentage, particularly given the strength of the competition they often face. Then, when Pastrnak is away from the other two, his CF% drops to 50%.

Line CF% Is Not A Good Way To Evaluate An Individual

Before I go any further, some may use this information and argue that it shows that Pastrnak is not as good without Bergeron and Marchand. But, this particular stat is not a fair assessment of an individual’s play. In this scenario, CF% is a line stat. That means that how much his linemates control possession has an effect on it. With a line as good as the one of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak is, of course, they are going to control possession way more than average. So, it’s not a knock on Pastrnak that his percentage goes down away from Bergeron and Marchand. It likely just means his linemates don’t control possession as well as Bergeron and Marchand, as is expected.

If you still don’t believe me, look at Bergeron’s without Marchand and Pastrnak. Is anyone really going to argue that Bergeron’s stats are inflated by Marchand and Pastrnak? No. But, by the logic of CF% determines how good a player is without certain others, Bergeron’s CF% is greatly inflated by the other two, given it drops to a measly 32.56% without them. But, that doesn’t mean Bergeron is that bad of a possession player. No, it just means that whoever he is playing with when away from Marchand and Pastrnak is not as good of possession players as they are.

Pastrnak’s Individual CF%? Excellent.

While line CF% is not a good assessment of an individual player, CF% is kept for individual players. In Pastrnak’s case, he had a CF% of 55.3% (stat courtesy of Pastrnak’s hockey-reference.com page) this season. That’s an incredible percentage on its own, and it’s especially so given how tightly he is usually defended. Plus, it’s close to the CF% of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak as a line, which shows that Pastrnak is not carried by the other two. If that were the case, his individual CF% would be much lower than the lines. But that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, it’s rather close, which shows that he’s pulling plenty of his own weight. So, the argument that without Bergeron and Marchand, Pastrnak is not as good, is just not true.

Pastrnak Had A Truly Remarkable Season

( Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson/Associated Press )

Watching Pastrnak’s development since entering the league has truly been a treat, especially these past few seasons. He’s worked hard to make himself into the player he is today. He’s one of the best in the league right now, and he’s only getting better. In just 70 games this season, he set career highs in goals, assists, and points this season with 48, 47, and 95, respectively. He was also named to the NHL All-Star Game, and he was even voted Atlantic Division captain. Pastrnak did all of this while continuing to develop his two-way game and just generally being a dominant force on the ice at all times and strengths and in all situations.

Simply put, without Pastrnak this season, the Bruins would not have been as good as they were. He was a driving force behind much of their success, particularly on the power play and in the offensive zone. Because of this, he was worthy of a Hart Trophy nomination.

All Finalists Were Deserving

Photo Collage Courtesy of NHL.NBCSports.Com

Now, all of that being said, as much as I (and all other Bruins fans) would’ve liked to see Pastrnak nominated for the Hart Trophy, everyone who is a finalist is deserving.

Nathan MacKinnon played an integral role in helping the Colorado Avalanche make up for the losses of Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog for extended periods due to injury. Not only did he just help them through it, though, but he enjoyed a level of success that far surpassed anything that could’ve been expected. Then, when they came back, he kept up that level of play, and the Avs went on a tear all the way to second place in the Central Division. At the end of the season, they sat just two points behind the Blues for first place, and Colorado played one less game than St. Louis. But anyways, MacKinnon ended the season with 93 points in 69 games for the Avalanche this season despite not having his normal linemates for long stretches. To say that without him, the Avalanche would’ve struggled a lot more this season is an understatement. He’s certainly worthy of the nomination.

As for Artemi Panarin, there was no doubt in my mind that he’d be nominated, especially once it was announced that the Rangers would take part in the play-ins this summer. In my opinion, he deserves to take it home this year. He was a major reason the New York Rangers improved as much as they did this season. His 95 points in 69 games were a career-high and good for third in the league, behind only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Without him, the Rangers would not be within reach of the playoffs. They wouldn’t have even been close. There are not many players you can say that about. He’s truly deserving of the Hart.

Finally, Leon Draisaitl had a mind-bogglingly good season this year. He led the league in points with 110 in 71 games. There’s no denying how important he was to the Oilers this season. Without him, it’s unlikely the Edmonton Oilers would’ve made the playoffs, as Connor McDavid can’t drag them there all by himself. So, yes, he did deserve the nomination. Was he more deserving of it than McDavid? That’s debatable for me. McDavid is the better all-around player, and between that and his leadership, he probably deserved it more. But, these things usually go by points, so it’s not surprising Draisaitl got it. Even if he might not have the most deserving Oiler, he does deserve this nomination. He’ll likely win the trophy too, even though I think the other two deserve it more.

In the End, the Other Finalists Deserved It More

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / Associated Press )

As much as this pains me to say, in the end, Pastrnak was not deserving of being a Hart Trophy finalist over Draisaitl, MacKinnon, and Panarin. Don’t get me wrong, Pastrnak had a truly incredible season, and he was certainly extremely valuable to the Bruins. He was definitely worthy of the nomination. But, without Draisaitl, MacKinnon, and Panarin, the Oilers, Avalanche, and Rangers (respectively) all would’ve been in much worse positions than the Bruins would’ve been without Pastrnak. For that reason, they deserved to be nominated for the trophy over him.

That shouldn’t take away from just how good Pastrnak was this season, though. There were plenty of people who deserved to be finalists this year that aren’t, including Pastrnak. Even though it won’t come this season, if he continues on this path, a Hart Trophy will be in Pastrnak’s future, so don’t fret too much Bruins fans. His time will come. And in the meantime, he can just be a Hart Trophy winner in our books.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we recorded below on 7-12-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Bruins Goaltender Tuukka Rask Named Vezina Finalist

Photo Credit: @NHLBruins/Twitter

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

Earlier today, the National Hockey League announced the finalists for the 2020 Vezina Trophy. Bruins starting goaltender Tuukka Rask was named one of the three finalists, along with Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck. According to NHL.com, “the Vezina Trophy is an annual award given “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position” as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs.”

Rask Was Lights-Out This Season

It’s no surprise that Rask was named a Vezina finalist this season. In 41 games this season, he posted a record of 26-8-6 and held a 2.12 goals against average and 0.929 save percentage. Those are his best numbers by far since he won the Vezina back in 2014. They were also good for the best GAA in the league and the second-best SV%. At 33 years old, all of these are quite impressive feats.

The Stats Aren’t Wrong

There’s still a lot of “Tuukka haters” out there, despite there really being no evidence for them to support their claims. So, I know there’s plenty of people out there who will argue that the only reason Tuukka’s stats were as good as they were this season was that the team was outstanding. But, that is far from the truth. Rask kept the Bruins in a lot of games this season when they weren’t at their best. There were some you could even say he stole. He also made some truly jaw-dropping saves this season. I’m sure everybody remembers the awe-inspiring blocker save from the video above.

Rask, Hellebuyck Both Deserving

Not only is Tuukka more than deserving of the nomination, but he deserves to take home the trophy this season. He has the best stats of all the finalists, and typically that’s the goalie who goes home with the hardware, even though it shouldn’t always be that way. Plus, as I said above, stats aside, Rask truly was an incredible goalie this season. He was easily one of the best, and arguably the best, goalie in the league.

But, fellow finalist Connor Hellebuyck was also incredible and deserving of the award. He stole numerous games for the Jets this year, who did not have great defense. His stats were also outstanding considering who he had playing in front of him and the number of games he played. Frankly, he’s really the only reason the Jets were able to squeak into the playoffs under the new format. 

Vasilevskiy is the reigning Vezina winner, but he shouldn’t be much of a threat this season. His numbers were about average, yet he was playing on a superteam. That’s not good, and so frankly, he didn’t deserve the nomination. I don’t see any scenario in which he beats Rask or Hellebuyck for the trophy this season.

Hellebuyck and Rask were the best two goalies in the league in my opinion, and I think we’ll find the GMs agree. But, we’ll have to wait until the Conference Finals to see which order they come in at. Both are more than deserving of the award, and it’s far from surprising to see them both as finalists. It’s hard to say who’ll take it home, but I think I speak for all of us here at BNG when I say we hope it’s Tuukka. Thankfully, if history is any indication, it’s likely that it will be.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we recorded below on 7-12-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

What Could the Bruins’ Power Play Look Like Next Year If Krug Leaves?

( Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports )

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

As I’m sure most of you reading this know, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Krug is one of the top power-play quarterbacks in the NHL, and he’s improved greatly at both ends of the ice at even strength in recent years as well. He’s also become a good leader on and off the ice. Contrary to what some still think, Krug is an extremely important player to the Bruins, and losing him will create a huge hole on the back end that won’t be easily filled.

Thankfully, both the team and Krug want him to stay, so hopefully, he does. But an agreement hasn’t been reached yet, and it’s still possible one never will be. I don’t think that’ll be the case, but since it’s possible, we should start thinking about what things could look like without Krug. So, I decided to take a look at what the first power-play unit could look like next year should Krug depart.

Current PP Structure

Before I get too far into this, I thought it’d be good to provide a refresher of the way the Bruins structure their first power-play unit. The Bruins use four forwards and one defenseman on their PP in the 1-3-1 format. Krug is the point man, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak are the attackers (bumper, right half-wall, and left elbow, respectively), and DeBrusk is the net-front presence.

This is the typical structure of it, but the true beauty of the Bruins PP is how fluid it is. You’ll often see Marchand (or even Pastrnak) switching positions with Krug, or Pastrnak switching with DeBrusk, among many other switches. While they may technically have an assigned spot, they rarely stay in it the whole time, and it’s a big reason why the Bruins’ PP is as successful as it is. Krug is a big reason why they are able to do this because, as an offensive-minded defenseman, he is very comfortable jumping up in the offensive zone, as evidenced by his point totals.

Keep The Same Format

( Photo Credit: John Minchillo/Associated Press )

The easiest option if Krug departs is to keep the same format (four forwards, one defenseman, 1-3-1 set-up), and plug either McAvoy or Grzelcyk into Krug’s point spot. Both McAvoy and Grzelcyk have proven that they’re able to man the PP, as they run the second unit and sub in for Krug if he’s hurt. They aren’t as good as Krug, but they’re capable and will likely improve if given more time there. Unfortunately, though, if McAvoy or Grzelcyk was the point man, the PP would likely not be as fluid.

While both players are comfortable jumping up into the offensive rush, they aren’t quite as offensive-minded as Krug. So, I have my doubts that either of them would be comfortable rotating around as much as Krug does, or at least they wouldn’t be for a while. So, this style of PP would be less effective for the Bruins not only because Krug wouldn’t be there, but because it wouldn’t be as fluid and therefore it’d be just like everyone else’s, and so teams will be better prepared to defend it. So, Cassidy has reportedly been considering another option, one that no other team currently uses in the NHL.

Five Forward Unit

According to this article by Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic, if Krug leaves, Cassidy is considering a first PP unit made up of all forwards. Please note, much of what was said in that article I fully agree with, so I am not simply parroting what he said. I actually hold the same opinions that he does on this. Moving on, this PP structure has the potential to either be really good or really, really bad. The reason teams don’t do this is that obviously when they’re on the PP, they want to lower the chances of a shorthanded goal being scored.

Having a defenseman man the point (most of the time) does that. Anybody who watches a lot of hockey can tell you that defensemen are almost always far better at transitioning and skating backward than forwards are. Plus, they obviously know their defensive positioning angles better. If you stick a forward back there, it’s probable that opposing teams will take more chances shorthanded to know they aren’t as equipped to handle it. As a result, they’ll likely score more shorthanded goals, which is obviously not what you want.

However, this may not be the case with the Bruins, and I can see why Cassidy is at least considering it. The Bruins have several forwards who would be capable of manning the point and handling a shorthanded break should one happen.

( Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/Associated Press )

Krejci is the first player who comes to mind as a forward who would be good at quarterbacking the PP. He’s one of the smartest players on the team, so he would likely be fine with his positioning on a shorthanded chance. Also, because of his high hockey IQ, he’d be able to handle rotating with some of the others a lot, thus allowing them to keep the fluidity they have. That’d also make it so the point responsibilities wouldn’t all fall on him.

Plus, he’s a pass-first guy, making him perfect for manning the point on the first unit because he’ll have plenty of eager shooters to pass to. But, Krejci also has a great one-timer and isn’t afraid to use it, so if the opportunity presented itself, he could also rotate down one of the walls, particularly the left one. His ability to slow the game down is incredible as well, which is a skill that is very useful for the guy operating the point on the PP to have. In short, a five forward unit of Krejci, Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand, and DeBrusk has the potential to be lethal offensively as well as sound defensively.

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Associated Press )

Another forward that could work well as the point man is Coyle. He’s a solid skater all around, and he has a good hockey IQ, so he’d probably be able to contain shorthanded chances fairly well. He probably wouldn’t be as likely to rotate all over the place, but I think he’d be capable of it, so it’d still be an option, just to a lesser extent probably. Coyle also has a nice shot, so if the best option was to shoot, he’d probably be able to get it through a fair amount of traffic. He’s also great at passing and setting others up, so regardless of what the best option was, he’d be able to handle it well. 

If the Bruins are going to go with this, they really need to pick a center to be the primary guy to man the point. They have other options that could work, but centers are often (but not always) better at skating backward and playing defensively than wingers are, and in the case of the Bruins, they have two great all-around centers (besides Bergeron) to choose from. Both Krejci and Coyle would likely be fine handling the point, although I’ll have to give the edge to Krejci, given his incredible vision and ability to slow the game down.

So, What’s the Best Option?

All of this being said, I’m not sure we can say with much certainty which option would be better for the Bruins if Krug leaves. At first glance, it seems like they’d be better off just sticking to the usual 4F/1D, but at the same time, the 5F format could be really interesting. No other team uses it, so teams wouldn’t be as good at defending it. Plus, unlike some other teams, the Bruins have some solid options for forwards to run the point that would not only be good offensively but would be capable defensively as well.

So, in the unfortunate (and in my opinion unlikely) event that Krug leaves this offseason, I think we see Cassidy try the 5F configuration for at least a few games. He’s certainly not afraid of mixing things up and trying new things, and this could end up being really successful. If it goes well, he’ll keep it, and if not, it’ll be easy for them to revert back to the old format.

Or, it’s possible that he could practice both and have them as options, so depending on the opponent or how the PP is playing, they could switch it up. Regardless of what they do, though, the PP wouldn’t be the same without Krug. He’s a huge part of why it’s so successful, so no matter which option they choose, it probably won’t be as good as it is right now. But hopefully, they’ll be able to find a way to minimize the damage caused by Krug’s departure should it unfortunately happen.

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