BFR1 – Game 56 – Twilight Zone – VAN 6, BOS 1

BFR1 - Game 56 Pic

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                           Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

 

Well, that was a poor showing. In one of the longest BFRs of the season, I had a few thoughts on the shocking showings the Bruins have had in the last week, and the asinine trade deadline rumors surrounding the team.

A Bruins’ Depth Dissection

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Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                           Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

Much has been made in recent weeks about the Bruins’ supposed depth issues, and how they need to be addressed at the trade deadline. However, I believe that there is, in fact, a roster jam, the likes of which are quite difficult to manage. So, let’s figure this out.

The NHLers:

This group all belong in the NHL and have spent no time in the AHL this season. They are on 1-way contracts and are not waiver-exempt OR are on entry level contracts, and made the team out of training camp, but have yet to set foot in the AHL this season. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that their spot in the lineup cannot be touched.

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Ryan Spooner
Tim Schaller Riley Nash David Backes
Noel Acciari

The Fringe:

Forwards:

Danton Heinen – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Boston

Anders Bjork – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently on IR

Sean Kuraly – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Boston

Peter Cehlarik – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence

Frank Vatrano – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Boston

Austin Czarnik – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence

Kenny Agostino –NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Providence

Jordan Szwarz – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Providence

Matt Beleskey – NHL Contract, Modified No-Trade Clause, Currently buried in Providence

Bruins Senators Hockey

Photo Credit: Fred Chartrand

According to the table above, there are four forward spots on this roster that are relatively in flux. Two of those are easy. Danton Heinen is 4th in team scoring and should be receiving legitimate Calder Trophy consideration. He’s on the team, no question. Sean Kuraly has been part of the best 4th line the Bruins have had since the famed Merlot Line with himself, Schaller, and Acciari. I don’t foresee him going anywhere. That then leaves two forward spots for the remaining 7 guys that have played in the NHL this season. I don’t see Beleskey being recalled anytime soon, especially with the injury trouble he’s run into down in Providence. Unfortunately, that contract has the appearance of a sunk cost right now. Agostino has already been up and down this season and has cleared waivers every time. Although he has been good for the Baby B’s, he hasn’t done nearly enough while with the big club to indicate that he should be the next guy up. The same can be said for Jordan Szwarz, who I have never been tremendously thrilled with at the pro level. Just like that, we’ve pared the list down to four guys and two spots to be filled.

Frank Vatrano, Jonathan Bernier

Photo Credit: Mark J. Temill

These two spots are not going to be regulars at the NHL level, and that’s important to understand. Of the four remaining, Cehlarik and Bjork are still on their entry-level contracts – this means they are waiver exempt and will be for the remainder of their contracts. Austin Czarnik can spend literally a single day more on an NHL roster before he becomes waiver eligible – indeed, he was recalled specifically for the games he played in his most recent stint and promptly sent back to Providence immediately afterward so as to prolong his waiver-exempt status. Frank Vatrano is the only one who isn’t waiver exempt – because he likely would be claimed the second he gets placed on waivers, he gets the nod despite being underneath Bjork and Cehlarik in the pecking order. I don’t think Vatrano fits as a 4th liner, and he isn’t consistent enough to play in the Top 6. Unfortunately, this pigeonholes him to the point where it would be beneficial for Boston to explore what the trade market looks like for him. It’s always preferable to get an asset in return for a player rather than simply losing them on waivers. So, Vatrano is (currently) the 13th forward.

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Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports

Much like Vatrano doesn’t fit as a 4th liner, I don’t think it behooves the Bruins to stick Anders Bjork in the bottom six and to give him zero powerplay time. In Providence, he can gain some confidence, and be a go-to guy. Unfortunately, Heinen has become what they thought Bjork would be much more quickly that Bjork has been able to. He has also had a few injury issues. He should spend the rest of the year in Providence unless multiple Top 6 forwards end up unable to play or injured.

Cehlarik is a little more nuanced. Based on this analysis, he would be the 14th forward, but I prefer to have him playing on a regular basis, not sitting in the press box every 3 out 4 games. He also has had a lot of poor injury luck throughout his career, so I’d like to see him get through a full season healthy before he makes the jump full time.

Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins

Photo Credit: Steve Babineau

Defense:

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Kevan Miller

 

The Fringe:

Matt Grzelcyk – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Boston

Adam McQuaid – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, 2 years remaining, Currently in Boston

Paul Postma – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, 1 year remaining, Currently in Boston

Rob O’Gara – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence

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Photo Credit: John Wilcox/Boston Herald

Now, there are only 4 d-men who have seen the light of day this year who I feel are battling for position on the roster. Matt Grzelcyk has spent the least amount of time at the NHL level, yet he has been far and away the best of the group. He has done more than enough to force the Bruins to keep him not only in the NHL for the duration of the season but in the lineup on a night to night basis. That makes him the 6th defenseman. McQuaid isn’t going anywhere on this roster despite my hesitation with such decisions, so that makes 7.

Now, if you’ve been keeping count, that leaves a single roster spot available between Paul Postma, Rob O’Gara, Austin Czarnik, and Peter Cehlarik. Cehlarik and O’Gara are waiver exempt – they have a place in Providence, so that’s where they will be. Czarnik retains his waiver exempt status as long as he remains in Providence, so unless something changes drastically, I doubt we see any more of him this season apart from the occasional emergency loan recall (which allows for a recall for a brief period of time without having to pass through waivers in either direction). Now, I cannot confirm nor deny that Paul Postma still exists, but he appears to be that 21st skater on this roster, as he would likely be lost if placed on waivers. So, the three scratches would be (in an ideal world) McQuaid, Postma, and Vatrano.

 

Hopefully, this has cleared this up for anyone confused to why there seems to be quite a bit of roster shuffling as of late. I also hope that people can see that the Bruins do not and SHOULD not have to add anything at the trade deadline. They have plenty of depth as it is.

 

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BFR1 – Game 50 – 5 out of 4 – BOS 4, TOR 1

BFR1 - Game 50 Pic

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                           Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

 

The B’s kind of obliterated the Leafs. YAHOO! Finally got to talk about beating the Leafs in one of these, meaning I don’t have an 0fer against the vaunted Steve Dangle. Also, had some thoughts on officiating and the Department of Player Safety. Please, do enjoy!

BFR1 – Bruins Game 46 – Shenanigans – BOS 3, NJ 2

BFR1 - Game 46 Pic

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                           Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

 

Yeah, I had some feelings about Brad Marchand’s suspension, and the Department of Player Safety in general. Acted them out for your entertainment. Enjoy.

BFR1 – Bruins Game 45 – Heart Palpitations – BOS 4, MTL 1

BFR1 - Game 45 Pic

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                           Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

 

About to sit down to record the third BFR reaction for B’s/Habs in a little over a week, none of which were overly competitive games, and OH MY GOD CHARLIE MCAVOY HOLY CRAP NOT OK…

Yeah.

I may have panicked a bit…

 

Should the Bruins keep Carlo?

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Photo Credit: Bill Wippert/Getty

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                               Twitter: @pucknerdhockey

More than the “Trade Tuukka” chants, or the “Deal Krug” narrative, I have been most perplexed and frustrated by the trend of Bruins fans to constantly bring down Brandon Carlo. Carlo is a bonafide Top 4 defenseman in this league, does plenty well, and as soon as he makes a 21-year-old mistake (oh yeah, buried the lede here – HE’S STILL ONLY 21), people jump on the bandwagon and scream from atop the highrises in Boston to get rid of him as fast as possible. To me, this is twofold. For one, Boston fans are consistently impatient. They don’t like waiting too long for players to develop and are quick to bash youngsters for their flaws. This is likely due to how spoiled they have been as a fanbase. When you are exposed to Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara, and now the emerging Charlie McAvoy, fair weather fans have a tendency to assume that every young defenseman should be this way, or they are automatically a bust.

No, they are not.

The irony is until McAvoy came along, Carlo was the beloved d-prospect who fans didn’t want to be dealt for anyone short of Connor McDavid, and three first-round picks (still may want to check on that, Pete Chiarelli’s starting to get desperate). As soon as McAvoy broke onto the scene, well, Carlo just wasn’t Chuckie. Newsflash: they have completely different skillsets, and that’s OK.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Arizona Coyotes

Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian

The second reason I think is that Carlo stands at 6’5″, 203 lbs, and doesn’t pile up highlight-reel, bone-crushing hits. I like to call this “Dougie Hamilton Syndrome,” only, Carlo hasn’t put up the pure offensive numbers that let some fans stomach Hamilton’s perceived lack of physicality. This is a fundamental flaw in how people perceive defense should be played. You do not have to hit people to be a good defenseman. You do not have to hit people because you are big. Carlo’s game is much, much more than that. But, you try explaining that to the fanbase of the Big Bad Bruins. They always have time (and wayyyyy too much money) for the grizzled veteran who will knock an opponent’s face in (I see you, Adam McQuaid).

By this time, you know my schtick – present an argument I find ridiculous and provide plenty of graphical information to support my hypothesis. In short, nerd stuff. Might I say, PUCKNerd Stuff? Yeah, I know, humor’s not really my forte. Anyhoo…

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Photo Credit: John Tlumacki

I looked at the last two years of Boston defensemen since Carlo broke into the league and only looked at players who suited up for a minimum of 500 minutes in the black and gold. This limits the dataset to guys who are heavily relied upon and likely played Top 4 minutes for a long stretch in that timeframe. There are only 7 players who qualify: Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Charlie McAvoy (yeah, ALREADY), Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Torey Krug, and, yes, Brandon Carlo. Below is a distribution of their zone starts.

Bruins Defensemen Zone Start Distribution

Red represents the percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone, orange in the neutral zone, and blue in the defensive zone. You may be interested to note that Carlo has the second lowest percentage of his shifts start in the offensive zone, and the second highest percentage of his shifts start in the defensive zone. The only player getting a higher chunk of his shifts starting in his own zone is Zdeno Chara. Mind you, Carlo broke into the league as a 19-year-old. This says that not only do the Bruins trust him in his own zone, they rely heavily on him to get the job done.

usa_today_10479421.0

Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

Well, that’s great. But a zone starts distribution that favors defensive zone starts does not necessarily equate to a GOOD defensive player. So, let’s look at Corsi For and Against per Hour. This normalizes Corsi rates for ice time, though the size of the data points equates to the percentage of total time on ice of the team’s time on the ice each player was deployed for.

Bruins Defensemen Corsi ForAgainst per Hour

Only Chara and McAvoy see a more significant percentage of the team’s ice time than Carlo, and he is their best Corsi Against player by a decent amount. Not only that, but he is also a net positive in Corsi, as he falls favorably within the “good” quadrant. What does this indicate? When he is on the ice, the Bruins are producing more shot attempts than the other team, which is indicative of better puck possession. This made me a bit skeptical, as our good friend Adam McQuaid ALSO shows up in that quadrant. So, what if we look at the TYPE of minutes Carlo has been asked to play?

Bruins Defensemen Minutes Difficulty versus Shot Suppression per Hour

Looking at the Time on Ice percentage adjusted for quality of competition, and comparing that to shot suppression, or Corsi Against per Hour, also adjusted for quality of competition, you start seeing a better picture. Pay close attention to the axes. The Corsi axis (the x-axis on your standard graph) is between 55% and 58% Corsi – an average possession player will fall around 50%. Based on this, Carlo appears to have played the 3rd most against the hardest competition. This makes sense, as it is supported by the previous chart. He is still good at suppressing the opposition, as his Corsi Against per Hour is third lowest of this group – meaning he actually has the third lowest number of shot attempts allowed while is on the ice of this group. Curiously, Colin Miller and Adam McQuaid are the only ones who are better at shot suppression but play significantly easier minutes and a much lower number of minutes. Also, Charlie McAvoy is the definition of fun, but he is playing easily the most difficult opposition of this group as a 21-year-old rookie. That’s objectively ridiculous. Please give him the Calder NOW.

alex-ovechkinbrandon-carlo-d39a237954665064

Photo Credit: Winslow Townsend/AP Photo

At this point, some of you might be saying, “Carlo is obviously a product of who he plays with.” AHA. I have out-thought you because I already have that information for you. Carlo Partners Number of Games with Each Partner

Since making his NHL debut, Brandon Carlo has played significant minutes (more than a couple of games) with only four players: Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, John-Michael Liles, and Kevan Miller, with the majority of his time being spent with (by far) Chara and Krug.

Carlo Partners Zone Start Ratio

The 50% line on this chart represents an even distribution of zone starts. Those falling below the line favor defensive zone starts, those high favor offensive zone starts. As one would expect, Carlo has seen a lot more aggressive zone starts when paired with Torey Krug. With the other three, he was hemmed in his own end quite a bit.

Carlo Partners Corsi For versus Against per Hour

Let’s check out that Corsi For versus Against per Hour graph again, but this time, look at how each pairing performed. The Liles/Carlo pairing was objectively bad, but the other 3 have been reasonably good. Krug/Carlo is far and away the best pairing of this group, and they’ve played enough of a sample size of games together to indicate that this is real. In fact, looking at the PDO values for each pairing, each of which suggests how repeatable their performance is (PDO = save percentage + shooting percentage; expect most PDO values to trend towards 100.0), you see that the three best pairings actually seem to be about where they should be. The Liles pairing, let’s chalk that up to limited sample size.

Carlo Partners PDO

Now, I checked out how efficient each pairing was regarding offensive production. I compared expected goals differential to their produced goals differential to do so. Trending towards the top right of the graph is good, towards the bottom left is kind of bad, and any other direction indicates that they are not performing as expected.

Carlo Partners Expected versus True Goals Differential

The Chara/Carlo pairing is clearly the best, buoyed in large part to a high expected goal differential. The Krug/Carlo pairing is actually underperforming, while the other two pairings, well, they weren’t tremendously good.

New York Rangers v Boston Bruins

Photo Credit: Jim Rogash

Great. So, Carlo is a good defenseman – when compared to his own teammates. Despite Boston’s reputation as one of the more defensively stout teams in the league, that doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot. So, let’s look at Carlo in comparison to all NHL defensemen who have played over 1000 minutes since his NHL debut.

Defensemen Minutes Difficulty versus Shot Suppression per Hour

Looking at a comparison of the difficulty of minutes and shot suppression ability per hour, as we did for the partners Carlo has played with, Carlo matches up quite favorably to some of the NHL’s elite. I have pointed out Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, the two most recent Norris Trophy winners, as well as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who plays the most difficult minutes of any defenseman in the league by far, Yannick Weber, who has played the easiest minutes of this group by a large margin, as well as Fedor Tyutin, who has gotten his teeth caved in the most of anyone in this dataset. Carlo is firmly in the top 1/4th of the group, indicating that he is, at worst, a #3 defenseman in this league.

Defensemen Corsi For versus Against per Hour

Now, Corsi For and Against per Hour. How does he stack up? Well, Burns is ridiculous, Torey Krug is (unsurprisingly) a Top 5 offensive defenseman in the league, Morgan Rielly is quite good, and Carlo is well into the “good” quadrant. I think I will take him on my defense corps.

Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Conor Sheary (43) and Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (25).

Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty

What does all of this do to the trade Carlo argument? Well, Brandon Carlo is demonstrably a good defensive defenseman in the NHL at the ripe old age of 21. He’s a right-handed defenseman who is 6’5″ and skates incredibly well. He defends quite well in his own end and plays a very cerebral game on the back end. If you trade Carlo, you immediately will be looking for another Brandon Carlo. The good news is, he won’t need to play top pairing minutes in Boston, which allows him to dominate in a slightly lesser role, what with Charlie McAvoy looking very much like perennial Norris Candidate in his own right. So, please. Just because he makes some weird mistakes, let him figure it out and back off. The end result is going to be one you want to stick around for.

All data mined through the databases on Corsica.hockey. Collected as of January 17th, 2018. All graphs are courtesy of PuckNerd and are not to be used without the express written consent of myself. Thank you.

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