A note to the Boston Bruins as they prepare for the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final:
Don’t wake up the giant. Let sleeping dogs lie, and all those clichés.
You might think that I’m referring to the dreadful 7.84% on-ice shooting percentage Hurricanes 5v4 power play, and you’d be right.
Downright awful, Carolina’s scored four times in 38 opportunities (10.5%) in over 62 minutes, underperforming the expected goals of 5.12 – which in and of itself is a low number.
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Dougie Hamilton – who wasn’t even a staple on the first unit power play has two of the goals, and leads the club with three points. He’s fired a shot on goal in all but two postseason games, and 10 shot attempts for a postseason high, in Game 3 versus Washington.
The Hurricanes have generated the least amount of high danger shots and scoring chances, considering they are ranked third overall in 5v4 time.
Known to fire at will at even strength, ranking third overall in shots on goal during the regular season – and second overall on a per 60 basis, generating 33.78 shot/60. They were 11th at 5v4.
Reversing a downslope to a season low in shots, the Canes power play shooting recovery has seen a sharp upslope originating late in the regular season and into the playoffs – in conjunction with an increase in 4v5 time. But, while the shooting and time on ice has increased, goals are missing.
They need to capitalize on more opportunities.
Even when isolating scoring chances by zone, there’s an upswing in low danger chances per 60 minutes (LDCF/60), with a corresponding dip in medium and high danger zones. They focus so much on the point shots to generate offense, they’re not generating much in more dangerous areas of the ice. The philosophy needs tweaking.
The scary part is that if they do make some changes, like stepping away from the dependence on point shots as a singular strategical execution, to incorporate more movement down low for some gained success at 5v4.
They’ve knocked off the reigning Stanley Cup champions and swept the structured New York Islanders on the strength of solid 5v5 play. They’re special teams must be better.
Boston did a fairly masterful job on the Blue Jackets, not allowing a 5v4 goal since Game 3, a span of 20 minutes. If Columbus could have mustered a timely marker instead of going 0-for-4 in Game 6, wasting eight minutes to stay in the series, they might still have had a chance to win Game 6.
It’s too late now.
The Bruins used a combination of behemoth defensemen heavily, Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara skated the most, with forward pairings of Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly in addition to the dangerous tandem of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That irritant is one of the better performing forwards at 4v5, yet doesn’t have a shot on goal yet through two playoff rounds.
Boston allowed a goal while shorthanded in four of 13 games so far this postseason, Games 3 and 4 versus Toronto and Games 2 and 3 versus the Blue Jackets. A one-game sample is more noise than signal, but it’s interesting to see the increase in expected goals against, with a playoff high 1.19 xGA.
There’s a noticeable change in scoring chances from various zones from Round 1 to Round 2. There were more high, then medium scoring chances allowed by the Bruins in Round 1 versus Toronto, while forcing more chances from low danger areas as the series wound down to their Game 7 repeat.
Columbus generated a lot of low danger chances, with an increase in medium range chances towards the end as the Blue Jackets tried with more desperation to generate something on the power play. In the end, it would be fruitless and a factor in their series defeat.
So the Eastern Conference Final is beginning to shape up into a battle of special teams. A stingy Boston Bruins penalty kill, versus a Carolina power play that is due to find some success soon. Right?
If the Canes can’t get that power play rolling, it could be a very difficult series.