Torey Krug: The Top 2 Defenseman the Bruins Deserve

( Above Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports )

By: Spencer Fascetta                                          Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

Much has been made of the Bruins’ depth when it comes to defensive prospects. Fans are constantly on the lookout for Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Urho Vaakanainen, not to mention less heralded prospects such as Matt Grzelcyk and Emil Johansson. Charlie McAvoy already looks like a Calder Trophy finalist, and Brandon Carlo has been a fantastic surprise since arriving early last season. But it is easy to overlook, and even criticize, the play of easily the Bruins’ best defenseman: Torey Krug.

Not only is Torey Krug the Bruins’ BEST defenseman, he actually is one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL. **HOT TAKE ALERT** Yes, I’m aware. However, I have compiled some data to describe to you exactly what I mean. Krug is demonstrably a Top 5 defenseman in the league in terms of transitional ability, or the ability to move the puck from his own zone to the offensive zone effectively and efficiently on a consistent basis, and we all are well aware of his offensive capabilities.

Caption: Graphic courtesy of Andrew Berkshire, Sportsnet, and SportLogiq

As you can see, Krug is clearly an elite offensive defenseman. It may come as a surprise, however, that he is actually a better transitional defenseman per Andrew Berkshire’s metrics than an offensive defenseman. What is even MORE surprising, is that he is actually the 5th best transitional defenseman by these metrics. All four of the defensemen listed ahead of Krug are former Norris Trophy winners, and are consistently considered to be the crème de la crème of NHL defensemen. The major difference between Krug and them appears to be circumstance, pedigree, and size.

Caption: Graphic courtesy of Andrew Berkshire, Sportsnet, and SportLogiq

Krug is demonstrably better offensively than Keith, but the Blackhawks’ rearguard is better in his own end.

Caption: Graphic courtesy of Andrew Berkshire, Sportsnet, and SportLogiq

Again, Doughty is much better than Krug in his own zone and transitionally, but Krug has an absurd advantage offensively.

Caption: Graphic courtesy of Andrew Berkshire, Sportsnet, and SportLogiq

Caption: Graphic courtesy of Andrew Berkshire, Sportsnet, and SportLogiq

Subban and Karlsson are both significantly better than Krug in all three areas of focus. As they are considered the two best defensemen in the league, this is relatively expected.

Well, great. Krug looks good by one guy’s metric. Granted, he is one of the most respected names in hockey analytics, but what does that matter? Well, let’s compare him to each of them.

Caption: Hero Chart via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Although Doughty plays significantly more than Krug, Krug is actually a better shot generator on the back end and is a better producer of primary assists. Granted, Doughty is the superior shot suppressor, but that is not Krug’s game.

Caption: Hero Chart via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Subban is a better goal scorer than Krug, but Krug is the superior shot generator and primary assist generator. Most importantly, however, is that they are both similar in terms of shot suppression.

 

Caption: Hero Chart via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Erik Karlsson is far and away the best defenseman in the game. That is unquestionable. He obviously plays more than Krug and is a significantly better goal scorer. The two are quite similar in terms of shot generation and primary assists, but Krug is actually a BETTER shot suppressor.

Caption: Hero Chart via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Finally, the wily veteran of the group only scores better than Krug in terms of shot suppression. Krug is better in terms of goal scoring, primary assist scoring, and shot generation, and is significantly better than Keith in the latter two.

Well, I could have cherry-picked those four to compare to Krug in order to portray him in a favorable light. So, let’s compare him to a few archetypes.

Caption: Hero Chart via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Krug continues to play lower minutes than your typical #1 defenseman, but is better than a typical #1 defenseman in all metrics, save for shot suppression, where he compares quite similarly.

Caption: Hero Chart via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

When compared to a typical #2 defenseman, Krug is far and away a better player, measuring almost dominant regarding shot generation and primary assists.

Caption: Hero Chart via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Krug and a typical 2nd Pairing Defenseman? Not even close.

So, according to everything presented above, Torey Krug is an elite, #1 defenseman in today’s NHL. So, why is he so underrated? Well, a large portion of his problem stems from his situation. Krug has had to drag his defensive partner around with him for the majority of his career. As you can see below, he has not been gifted with a stellar situation to maximize his abilities and has been paired with some of the least productive and effective defenseman the Bruins have rostered since he broke into the league in 2012-13. The first graphic compares the relative expected goals for percentage for each defenseman that has suited up for at least 1000 minutes in the black and gold in Krug’s career to the player’s relative CorsiFor Percentage, which is the percentage of time the player had a positive impact on puck possession while he was on the ice relative to the other players around him.

I have highlighted Krug and the best/worst of the group. The size of the bubble for each player corresponds to the percent of the time on ice each player played relative to the total minutes he was dressed for. Based on that, you can see that players like Colin Miller (surprise, surprise) and Zach Trotman (legitimate surprise) were heavily underutilized in their Bruins’ careers, while Dennis Seidenberg, Kevan Miller, and Matt Bartkowski have been relied on to do far more than they are capable of. Brandon Carlo looks lonely down there with a negative relative CorsiFor Percentage, but a fairly good relative expected goals for percentage.

Caption: Data courtesy of Corsica.hockey, graphic by Spencer Fascetta

For some perspective, here is the distribution of relative expected goals for percentage and relative CorsiFor Percentage for the specific defense pairings Krug has been a part of since breaking into the league. He has played with 11 different partners in that timeframe. This time, games played is the size of the bubble. As you can see, a majority of his partners have created very low numbers, and are clustered near the zeros of each axis, with the ill-fated Seidenberg/Krug pairing the only one falling fully in the negative (and far into the negative at that). One only wishes that the Colin Miller/Krug pairing could have been given more time together, because they were far and away the most effective pair, and were nearly dominant on the ice when together.

The other important tidbit to note in this graphic is the size of the bubbles. As stated above, these are relative to the number of games Krug played with each partner. The largest bubbles all exist in the lower left of the graph, with poor relative CorsiFor Percentage and relative expected goals for percentage, and they get smaller as the metric get better. This further illustrates Krug’s plight on the back end, as he has very rarely been put in a position to be successful.

Caption: Data courtesy of Corsica.hockey, graphic by Spencer Fascetta

Finally, how does Krug match up league-wide in this sense? Well, I took the same measurements, expected goals for percentage and relative CorsiFor Percentage, and applied a 3000 minutes time on ice limit on the data to only look at players that played a significant amount of time for their team(s) over the past 6 years. I also added the condition of the quality of competition each player played against per that time on ice. This is what creates the bubble size. I highlighted Krug, as well as the four we discussed above – Keith, Subban, Karlsson, and Doughty. I also highlighted Mark Giordano, who is pretty close to perfect in this analysis, as well as former Bruins Andrew Ference (yet another guy who was not very good but got plenty of ice time to work with, and Dougie Hamilton. Dan Girardi is the plight of all analytics people (Kris Russell is a close second), so I have highlighted him for context as well.

Caption: Data courtesy of Corsica.hockey, graphic by Spencer Fascetta

As you can see, although Krug plays against slightly weaker competition, he still is among the upper echelon of defensemen in this league and compares very favorably to names like Doughty and Keith. If only we found a way to keep Dougie…

So, is Torey Krug a #1 defenseman in this league? Unequivocably yes. Why is he underrated? Well, the hockey community loves to hate in Boston, he was an undrafted college free agent signing, and, to be frank, he’s small. But he never shies away from physicality, he has been known to drop the gloves when necessary (see Andrew Shaw for both).

Oh, and in case you forgot, he can do things like this…

Many thanks to Corsica for providing the data used to create my own Viz for this piece, to OwnThePuck.blogspot.ca for the use of their excellent Hero Charts, and a special thanks to Andrew Berkshire for allowing the use of his personal graphics from a piece he wrote earlier this year for Sportsnet on the Top 23 Defenseman in the NHL. He also goes into an incredible amount of detail on the specifics of these metrics, how they are comprised and calculated, and the way in which he aggregated each numerical value in order to reach the broad and encompassing values used in the graphics themselves. Please take a minute to follow him on Twitter @AndrewBerkshire, and check out his work at Sportsnet as well. He is an excellent source for hockey analytics analysis and news.

Please follow ME on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey, find me on YouTube @PuckNerd for hockey news, analysis, and my newest creation, BFR or Bruins Fan Reactions after nearly every B’s game. Looking forward to your feedback!

Boston Bruins Lineup Riddled With Injuries

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( Above Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Associated Press )

By: KG                   Follow me on Twitter: @kgbngblog and on FanCred at K G

The Bruins have had some injury struggles early in the season, to say the least. Currently, the B’s have 6 people on the Injured Reserve for an undisclosed time for the majority of the players like Adam McQuaid and David Backes. These players include three centers, one RW, one D, one LW,. This is a large portion of the regular roster, which means that the Bruins are lacking some serious skill and experience in their lineup.

Some players that are expected to be out for awhile are David Backes, who had surgery to remove a portion of his colon due to health complications, and Adam McQuaid, who will be out for an extended period of time with a fractured fibula he received after blocking multiple shots in the same area. But players like Marchand, Krejci, and Acciari are expected to be back sooner than later.

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These changes in the lineup are very apparent. In the New York game, we could visibly see the lack of depth on the power play when they played the combo of Bjork, Beleskey, Vatrano, Czarnik, and McAvoy as their second option. Playing McAvoy and Bjork isn’t an issue, but having the more grinder-like players like Beleskey and Vatrano seems like it may not be the best idea. The Bruins are currently running a power play percentage of 23.5%, good for 6th best in the NHL.

What Cassidy is doing to counter the lack of depth is to make the lineup less top heavy by moving Jake DeBrusk to the fourth line to even it out. Cassidy also moved up the line of Kuraley-Schaller-Heinen to the second line from the usual spot of the third/fourth line. This ensures that there is a better chance of scoring/good overall play whenever any line is out.

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The Bruins still have a lot of work to do if they want to be in playoff contention by the Christmas break. In the 2016 season, 14 of the 16 teams to make the playoffs were in a playoff position as of the Christmas break. The only changes were Toronto and Calgary sneaking into their separate wildcard spots. The Bruins currently sit 3 points away from third in the Atlantic with usually two or three games in hand from the rest of the teams in the division.

They still have 68 games to play, but if they keep playing at this level, the season will only be the regular 82, no extra.

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Sources:

Shrpsports.com, sports.vice.com, TSN.ca

Follow KG on Twitter @KGbngblog and on FanCred at K G Like, share and comment your takes on the article

Three Players The Boston Bruins Will Have To Time Manage This Season

 

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Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period at TD Garden on March 8, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts. (March 7, 2017 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

 

 

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                  Twitter:@godwentwhoops

The Boston Bruins will be going into the 2017-18 season with high expectations. The B’s got themselves back into the playoffs and are looking for a deeper run this year. While the Bruins roster (David Pastrnak permitting) looks like they can achieve this goal, there are a few players the organization are going to have to watch (and carefully manage) if they want to reach the watermark they’re aiming for.

1.) Zdeno Chara

40-year old Zdeno Chara is still regarded by Cam Neely as the Boston Bruins number one defenceman. While he’s still the biggest guy in the NHL, the B’s captain has begun to slow down. In a league that is currently swinging towards speed and technical skill, it could put the Black and Gold at a serious disadvantage as the season wears on.

So what can the Bruins do?

The Bruins will have to manage Chara’s time effectively. The last thing they need is to have Chara out for any length of time this season.  They’ll need to limit his playing time to 20-22 minutes a night (not counting overtime). Is this entirely practical? It may not be.

At the moment, the Bruins don’t have anyone who can step up and be the new number one blueliner for Boston. Brandon Carlo could be ready to do it in a couple of years. Charlie McAvoy could step up big-time for the team and show he’s ready to shoulder that responsibility. Torey Krug has proven he can be a top-four defenceman, and may even have it in him to be a top-pair man.

 

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Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders and Adam McQuaid #54 of the Boston Bruins battle in the corner during the second period at the Barclays Center on March 25, 2017, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (March 24, 2017 – Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

 

2.) Adam McQuaid

While the media likes to use the moniker ‘injury-prone’ to several current members of the Boston roster, it does aptly fit McQuaid. He’s had a series of injuries during his career, including several concussions and a very dangerous blood clot. Still, the 30-year old blueliner has shown that he’s more than willing to engage anyone on the ice.

Last season, McQuaid told the fans and the media he was ready to become a top-four blueliner. For the most part, he was able to meet Boston’s expectations. Still, fans (and broadcasters) always seem to wince every time McQuaid takes or gives a serious hit on the ice.

Once again, it’s a matter of time management. The Bruins have more options with McQuaid than they do with Chara. Rob O’ Gara is coming up the pipes, as is Jakub Zboril. Charlie McAvoy impressed the front office in the B’s first round matchup against Ottawa.

The B’s could place McAvoy on the second pair (or higher), and that would free up time to use McQuaid more effectively. The B’s will need to use him effectively to win games.  McQuaid is the closest thing the Bruins have to a ‘stay-at-home’ defenceman. Against the faster top-six forwards in the league, this could be a problem for the Black and Gold.

 

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Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins in goal against the Dallas Stars in the third period at American Airlines Center on February 26, 2017, in Dallas, Texas. (Feb. 25, 2017 – Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)

 

3.) Tuukka Rask

Last season, the Boston Bruins came dangerously close to burning out Tuukka Rask (again). Rask ended up playing in 65 games last year for the B’s, going 37-20-5.  Rask’s numbers began to decline in the season, and Rask ended up with a decent (but not outstanding) 2.23 goals-against average, and a .915 save percentage.

The Bruins must watch how they use Rask this season.

The ugly truth is that the B’s might not have any choice here. The Bruins were only able to put up a single win without him in the first half of the season. Anton Khudobin looked like a pile of spilled borscht early in the season.  Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre both got a shot last year but didn’t hold up well against NHL-level players.

Hopefully, the B’s will catch a break. At the Bruins Fan Fest last Thursday, Bruins President Cam Neely believed Khudobin would be ready for the start of the season. Zane McIntyre also had a solid season last year in Providence. Neely also believed there would be a healthy level of competition for the number two job in Boston.

 

 

The Potential For Change In The Boston Bruins Lineup

(Photo Credit: NewsOK)

By Mike Cratty                                                                                               Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

The Boston Bruins lineup for this upcoming season looks to have some things in place, but others in question. There are a variety of answers to these questions that can be solved by a number of different players, some we may expect more than others. It all depends on what direction the team wants to go in and what message, or messages, they want to send to their opponents.

One way Don Sweeney could decide to go when helping form the roster for Bruce Cassidy and the coaching staff is via trade. Three guys that particularly stand out as fairly realistic trade candidates are Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano, and Adam McQuaid.

One underlying reason as to why Vatrano and Spooner have value is the fact that they are left-handed players that have shown that they can score to some degree. Sure, Frank Vatrano has done most of his scoring in Providence, but the potential is still there with his speed, bulldog mentality and impressive shot and release. With some work on his consistency on the score sheet, he could be a fine NHL scorer someday.

Some teams that come to mind in this situation are the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils. The Kings, Ducks, Canucks, and Islanders have all been speculated to have been looking for a left-handed player that can score in the past. Spooner and or Vatrano could be of interest to these teams and possibly others in this case.

Teams like the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Islanders have had reported interest in Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane. Those three teams are teams that could use a guy with the potential to fit into a top-six scoring role on the left wing. Kane is a left-handed forward with scoring potential. The Canucks, Golden Knights, and Devils were all reported to have some interest in Ryan Spooner in the past.

Spooner isn’t as much of a scorer as he is a playmaker, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have interest to a team looking for scoring. He is effective on the half wall on the power play as well. Spooner has registered 64 assists in 158 regular season games over the past two seasons without playing a ton of top-six minutes, a lot of his minutes have been bottom-six and powerplay minutes. His power play prowess, puck distribution skills and skating ability are the main qualities that could catch the eye of general managers across the league.

Spooner’s trade value is up-in-the-air partly because he is a restricted free-agent waiting for an arbitration hearing. His hearing is set to take place July 26, less than a week from today. What Spooner could fetch in return is up in the air. A right winger could be acquired for the top-nine, some have thrown out Arizona Coyotes forward Anthony Duclair’s name. Duclair is listed as a left-wing, but might not have too much of a problem playing on his off wing. Spooner and Duclair are both restricted free-agents who could benefit from a change of scenery. Honestly, a Spooner for Duclair swap almost makes too much sense.

There’s also the possibility they trade Spooner and maybe more in hopes to acquire a top four defenseman or a draft pick or two. Sami Vatanen may make sense as a right-handed option, but the Bruins would likely have to add more than Spooner or Vatrano. The Bruins currently have five right-handed defensemen and only two left-handed defensemen on the roster. Maybe Adam McQuaid could be packaged in a deal with Ryan Spooner.

Rob O’Gara and Matt Grzelcyk are realistic left-handed defenseman who could make the jump this year. This could just mean Spooner is traded for a forward or a pick or two instead of a defenseman. A decision to make room for O’Gara or Grzelcyk could provoke Don Sweeney to move Adam McQuaid because he is right-handed and is a very similar player to Kevan Miller. Kevan Miller really took a big step last year, especially in the playoffs. It’s fair to say that McQuaid is more likely to be moved than Miller.

Trading Spooner or Vatrano makes room for a young player trying to solidify a roster spot. Trading McQuaid could do the same, but for a young defenseman.

One change that may be flying under the radar would be making David Backes the new third line center. Hear me out, I’m not completely ruling out Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson being there. There is also the rather unlikely possibility of Ryan Spooner returning on a new deal to compete for minutes as the third line center.

David Backes played center in ten seasons as a St. Louis Blue. He played on the right wing a lot this past season in the top-nine and looked out of place at times. Moving Backes to play third line center could have some benefits. He isn’t known to be the best skater, although he isn’t necessarily a bad one and he is 33-years-old. It looked difficult for him to keep up with the Bruins top-six forwards at times.

There are a good amount of guys that he could play realistically with on the third line, some more realistic than others. Those guys are Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen, Frank Vatrano, Matt Beleskey, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, and Jake DeBrusk. The young guys on this list don’t necessarily need to play top-six minutes right away to succeed. Say the third line ends up consisting of Jake DeBrusk, David Backes, and Anders Bjork. That sounds like a well balanced third line. A veteran in his natural position in the middle with two young, hungry wingers with a lot of skill that he can make plays with.

Whoever doesn’t play on the third line will compete for spots on David Krejci’s wings, depending on whether David Pastrnak starts out playing with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron or not. If Pastrnak does play with Krejci to start, in this situation, a young player will have a golden opportunity to start out on the first line. That’s not bad considering that player will get to skate alongside a guy who made a great case for the Hart Trophy, Brad Marchand, and a four-time Selke Trophy winner, Patrice Bergeron.

There is the more unlikely option that they bring in a right-wing to play on the third line or in the top-six. Alex Chiasson and Thomas Vanek are two names that come to mind. At this point, it sounds like the direction the team is heading in is one revolving around youth, which isn’t bad.

Matt Beleskey may make sense as a guy who has similar speed to Backes. Beleskey seems very eager to get back to his old ways like we saw in the 2015-2016 season where he had a career-high 37 points. It would be difficult to do that being stuck on the fourth line, although the fourth line could be dangerous with Riley Nash and Noel Acciari likely holding down the center and right wing positions.

If Backes does, in fact, start on the third line, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, could play on the fourth line with Riley Nash, Noel Acciari or Sean Kuraly on his wings. If that’s not the case, some AHL seasoning for a bit would not be the worst thing for JFK. The NCAA and NHL games are very different.

There are so many possibilities for what kind of lineup the Boston Bruins will roll out to start the 2017-2018 season. These tough decisions will come to fruition once we hit camp season, as well as the preseason.

 

What Is The True Worth of Bruins McQuaid and Miller?

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Oct 23, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman John Scott (32) and Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid (54) fight during the third period at First Niagara Center. Bruins beat the Sabres 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

By: Spencer Fascetta                                       Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

I cannot count the number of times I have watched a Bruins game and been frustrated by the limitations in the skillsets of Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. To the naked eye, they just do not seem to be in the mold of the modern-day NHL defenseman – a good skater who can make a good first pass and is excellent traditionally. Instead, both McQuaid and Miller are big, tough-nosed, stay-at-home defensemen, and, with both of them locked up long term and Colin Miller lost to the Expansion Draft, I decided to delve a little deeper into McQuaid and Miller to see if there was something I was missing in their play. Was I being blinded by my own prejudices, and are they truly worth the contracts that they are currently under?
I first started with their possession metrics. For the uninitiated, Corsi is a statistic used to measure shot attempt differentials while at even strength. It compiles shots on goal, missed shots on goal, and blocked shot attempts towards the opposition’s net minus the same shot attempts directed at your own team’s net. Fenwick is a similar statistic, but it eliminates blocked shots from the formula. A player with a positive Corsi or Fenwick is one generating more shot attempts for his team than he is allowing against his team, and one with a negative Corsi or Fenwick is allowing more shot attempts against his own team than he is generating offensively. This translates to what we can call “puck possession,” as these statistics are a relatively simple analog to how often a player has control of the puck. A player who is in control of the puck more than not will usually generate more shot attempts than he allows, as the other team cannot generate shot attempts if they do not possess the puck. For the sake of this article, I will look specifically at Corsi rather than Fenwick, as, in my personal opinion, it offers a more accurate depiction of a player’s puck possession ability. The Corsi For %, or CF% is the ratio of shot attempts for divided by the total number of shot attempts, and Corsi For % Relative is the CF% for the player while he is ON the ice as compared to the CF% for his team when he is OFF the ice. Below are the two charts for McQuaid (top) and Miller (bottom).

Numbers #2

Numbers #1

Obviously, McQuaid has a much larger sample size than Miller at this particular point in his career, but regardless, the results aren’t too promising for either individual. McQuaid’s CF% relative for his career sits at a -3.7 in 424 career NHL games. In 217 career NHL games, a little more than half of McQuaid’s total career games, Miller’s CF% relative sits at -2.5. A word of caution about Miller’s number would be that his 2013-14 season was absolutely abysmal, and that outlier significantly skews the data. He is still a career negative CF% relative player, but that season drops his career number to well below where it should be. There are no real arguments about McQuaid, however. In a much larger sample size, he has consistently been a supremely negative possession player for his team, even though his career best mark in this category occurred this past season (-1.8).

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While both are negative career possession players, Kevan Miller has been markedly better than his older counterpart. Photo: Canadian Rubber Hockey

Possession metrics are only a portion of the story. Two other statistics are housed in the above tables – PDO and Zone Starts. PDO is the sum of a team’s even strength save percentage and a player’s even strength shooting percentage. Ideally, a player’s PDO will fall around 100. Anything below a 98 usually is indicative of a player who is better than their statistics would appear, and anything over 102 usually is indicative of a player who is likely to see a stark decrease in production. McQuaid’s career PDO is 101.6, which indicates that he essentially is what he is at this point. The production we have seen from him is what we should expect. Miller’s PDO is slightly more concerning, as his career mark sits at a 102.3, which tells me that he isn’t just as good as he is going to get, but he is likely to see a decrease in the near future. Zone Start statistics are fairly straightforward, as they measure the percentage of shifts a player begins in the offensive and defensive zones at even strength. Players who are deemed as defensively minded or defensively proficient (think Patrice Bergeron-esque) will generally see more defensive zone starts, whereas a younger player who is a dynamic offensive talent but has not fully developed their defensive game will usually see most of their shifts start in the offensive zone (i.e. Ryan Spooner). Based on what we already know about these two players, one would assume that they receive a large share of their zone starts in front of the Bruins’ net. For McQuaid, you would be correct, but only by a fractional margin. Interestingly, he saw his offensive zone starts to increase this year tremendously, clocking in at 52.4% of his zone starts coming in the offensive zone, only the 3rd time in his career where more of his shifts have started in the offensive zone than the defensive zone. Miller’s career numbers in this regard are more befuddling. He doesn’t just see a fraction more of his zone starts happen in the offensive zone, he does so by a wide margin. In his career, he has seen 53.5% of his shifts start in the offensive zone and has seen an offensive zone start more times than not in his career in 3 out of 4 seasons. For a player who is relied upon more for his defensive capabilities, this is a concerning trend in his usage and could contribute to his perceived inadequacies.

Next, I looked into each player’s hero chart. A hero chart provides an easy to read summary of a player’s ice time relative to his team, goal production, assist production, shot generation and shot suppression. A full and much more detailed explanation can be found at the home of the hero chart, www.ownthepuck.blogspot.ca. I compared the two players to each other, then compared them to the archetypes of a 2nd pairing and a 3rd pairing NHL defenseman.

Graph #1

As you can see, both are better than average at shot suppression. Miller is significantly better at goal generation, and the two line graphs beneath the bar graphs, which show their shot impact per hour and primary points generation per hour show that Miller is unequivocally the better player offensively. He is marginally better regarding shot suppression, both receive similar ice time, and McQuaid is (somehow) slightly better at shot generation.

When compared to a typical 3rd pairing defenseman, it is clear that both McQuaid and Miller pass the test. Both are much better at shot suppression than your average 3rd pairing D-man and aren’t significantly weaker in their other skill sets to indicate that they should not be receiving 3rd pairing minutes.

Because they were so clearly at minimum 3rd paring players, I wanted to see what they would look like when compared to 2nd pairing defenseman. As you can see below, McQuaid is definitely not a 2nd pairing player. He is far too weak offensively to garner those kinds of minutes. Miller is, in my estimation, a fringe 2nd pairing defenseman. He shows enough offensive upside that I believe he could reasonably be expected to play 2nd pairing minutes should the situation arise, and he is at the very least an elite 3rd pairing defenseman in this league.

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Kevan Miller surprisingly shows relative offensive upside. Photo: Boston Globe

Unfortunately, zone entry and zone exit data is not readily available to us common folk. Most of it is proprietary to each individual team or company tracking it, so the only way to collect such data is to track it yourself throughout the season. Clearly, I was unable to do this. However, for the sake of argument, let me walk you through what an ideal defenseman does in this context. An ideal modern-day NHL defenseman is able to successfully complete a pass or skate the puck out of his own zone on a consistent basis, and, likewise, either can skate the puck into the offensive zone, or make the correct pass to create a controlled zone entry. Essentially, you do not want your players to chip or dump the puck out of their own zone, and dump and chase hockey should be a thing of the past. I cannot say with any certainty that McQuaid or Miller are adept or poor zone entry and exit players, so I hope this little tidbit can inform your own viewing at home to come to your own conclusion on this matter.

Pic #1

Upon further investigation, don’t expect much more than what we have from Adam McQuaid. Photo: The Pink Puck.com

Now, at the start of this incredibly long soliloquy, I posed a few questions. One is there something in the underlying numbers that suggests to me that Adam McQuaid and/or Kevan Miller are better than the eye test would suggest and two, do they warrant the contracts that Don Sweeney signed them to. In McQuaid’s case, no. I see a mediocre at best 3rd pairing defenseman who likes to play physical. There is nothing inherently wrong with that player type, but he should not be making $2.75 million for over the next two seasons. The production and ability simply do not support that price tag. In Miller’s case, I find his ability a bit more nuanced. I was surprised to find that he actually is decent regarding offensive generation, and is actually better at shot suppression than McQuaid. His career negative possession metrics still concern me, and that is, in my opinion, reason enough to prevent him from receiving 2nd pairing minutes, but as a 3rd pairing defenseman, I actually like him. Is he worth $2.5 million over each of the next four seasons? Probably not. But I am much more willing to give that contract to him than Adam McQuaid. Perhaps if he were provided with more defensive zone starts than offensive zone starts, his talents would begin to show themselves on a much more consistent basis.

 

All Hero Charts were found at ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Possession Metrics found through hockey-reference.com

 

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Bruins Release Expansion Protection List

( Above Photo Credit:  1st Ohio Battery )

By Mark Allred                        Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The National Hockey League has officially released every team’s list of players they’ve protected, and players left exposed to the new Vegas Golden Knights franchise set to begin to play in October of 2017. The Expansion rule is that the Vegas team has to select one player from all 30 team’s in the NHL and the draft to select those players will be this Wednesday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Below are the two list’s provided to the NHL by the Boston Bruins and separated by availability to the new franchise and one that’s protected from being selected.

Protected Players

(F) David Backes, (F) Patrice Bergeron, (F) David Krejci, (F) Brad Marchand, (F) Riley Nash, (F) David Pastrnak, (F) Ryan Spooner. (D) Zdeno Chara, (D) Torey Krug, (D) Kevan Miller, and (G) Tuukka Rask

Available Players

(F) Matt Beleskey, (F) Brian Ferlin, (F) Jimmy Hayes, (F) Alexander Khohlachev, (F) Dominic Moore, (F( Tyler Randell, (F) Zac Rinaldo, (F) Tim Schaller, (F) Drew Stafford, (D) Linus Arnesson, (D) Chis Casto, (D) Tommy Cross, (D) Alex Grant, (D) John-Michael Liles, (D) Adam McQuaid, (D) Colin Miller, (D) Joe Morrow, (G) Anton Khudobin, and (G) Malcolm Subban

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Boston Bruins Need To Protect Colin Miller

Mar 15, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Colin Miller (6) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Boston Bruins won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins will have a hard choice when it comes to protecting some of their players for the upcoming expansion draft. Hopefully, the B’s will have the good sense to keep defenceman Colin Miller.

By Andrew Thompson                                                               Twitter:  @godwentwhoops

The NHL playoffs are currently going through their second round. (Sadly, the Boston Bruins are out due to falling the Ottawa Senators in six games.) At the end of the playoffs, the Bruins will have to deal with the Las Vegas Golden Knights taking one of their players.  Nothing like an expansion draft to throw a wrench in the Black and Gold works.

The Golden Knights are likely going to steal a defenseman from Boston. There is a decent amount of talent in the B’s blueline, and several players are in the cross-hairs of the Knights.

Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug won’t be leaving the fold anytime soon. John-Michael Liles is likely done in Boston.  If (and that’s a moderately sized ‘if’) the Bruins keep Joe Morrow around, he won’t gather much attention from Vegas. This leaves Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid.

Adam McQuaid will likely not be the first choice of the Knights. While the 30-year old has proven that he’s willing do anything for the team, he has reached the practical edge of his skill set.

There are other reasons why McQuaid is out. McQuaid is a bottom-four blueliner that has an extensive history of injuries. He’s also the B’s stay-at-home defenceman. The league is getting faster every year. As the average game’s speed increases, the need for a limited-zone d-man is going the way of the dinosaur and the enforcer.

This leaves one of the Millers.

A lot of people have argued that the Bruins should protect Kevan Miller. I don’t want to take anything away from the older Miller’s most recent work. The 29-year old Miller had a very solid playoff round against the Sens.  He would be a better choice than McQuaid, but he’s also approaching the edge of his skill set.

The Bruins need to look to the future. That’s why they have to keep Colin Miller. The 24-year old still has an incredible amount of potential. Miller will spend next season with Zdeno Chara. He’ll continue to learn and grow under the captain’s instruction. He’s also the only of the three who is already a legitimate top-four blueliner.

The Boston Bruins are in the middle of an emerging youth movement. They are looking to younger players to stand up and make the kind of difference they made in the postseason. If this is the B’s focus moving forward, they’ll need to keep their young gun.

The Bruins will have plenty of talent coming down the road.  Charlie McAvoy certainly looks ready. While the B’s are looking ahead to the future, they need to continue to improve their blue line today.

Look at where the B’s are now. McQuaid and Kevan Miller are more of the same. It’s not enough to be consistent in this league. The B’s will need to evolve and improve if they want to remain a credible playoff threat in the future. Colin Miller is a step up for the team

When the Bruins release their list of protected players, I hope Colin Miller is on the list. He’ll be an important piece of the team moving forward.

Bruins Torey Krug, Leader On The Point

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(Photo Credit: Matthew J.Lee/GlobeS)

By Court Lalonde (follow @courtlalonde)

Torey Krug has always been known for his offensive ability but has lacked a two-way game. Just never seemed like the defensemen the Boston Bruins could put on the ice when the game was on the line. This year started a little different for him because he was one of the veterans on the blue line and was going to have to change a couple of things, so the team didn’t have the same outcome. Krug has been one of the whipping boys for some Bruins fans along with fellow defensemen Zdeno Chara.


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This season I believe he has turned some opinions and heads of Bruins fans and around the National Hockey League. Currently, he is tied for fifth in scoring amongst NHL defensemen with Dustin Byfuglien and Duncan Keith at 51 points. He is ahead of Shea Weber and Drew Doughty just to name a few. Out of the eights goals he has scored this year, six of them along with 19 assists came on the power play to help give the Bruins the seventh best power play in the league. He has been the power play quarterback the Bruins always wanted him to be and then some. His production on the man advantage has him tied for third amongst NHL defensemen for goals. He scored one of the nicest looking goals a Bruin has scored all year against the Ottawa Senators after a small altercation with Dion Phaneuf.

 

It has been more than just his offense this year that we his fans are noticing on the ice. We have seen his strong play on the defensive side of the puck and is fourth on his team in blocked shots with 82. During this six-game winning streak, Krug along with his partner Adam McQuaid have been two of the best defensemen on the ice for the Bruins when we have needed them to be. In the last six games, he has one goal, two assists, but has been plus five and has been playing in most situations for the Bruins. Bruce Cassidy even used him on the penalty kill against the Dallas Stars during this winning streak, and he didn’t miss a beat. If the Bruins are going to win any series this year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they’re going to need Krug to continue his play and even ramp it up.

During the 2013-14 playoffs, he had two goals, eight assists, for ten points in 12 games. The playoffs are where I first noticed Krug during the Bruins last run to the Stanley Cup finals in the 2012-13 season. The good news is he has a history of playing well in the playoffs and will be going into with a career year and a coach that has confidence in him. With Chara not getting any younger, this will be a different playoff run with a different look. The team will rely on Krug to carry the load when it comes to offense from the point and chip in on the defensive side as well. If he can carry over his play from the season into the post season, we shouldn’t have any concerns.