Bruins’ Pitfalls of Reliance on Top Scorers
They face off against the Washington Capitals tonight when the two Eastern Conference powerhouses meet in a midweek clash of the titans. The Capitals hosting the Bruins will be on the NBC broadcast.
Boston is coming off an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, dropping their third straight and only one loss away from tying their season high of four games in early November. That losing skid was preceded by a season high, eight wins in a row. All those losses had one thing in common.
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Patrice Bergeron had only played in two of them, a four-point game and an assist in the other, missing nine games with a lower body injury. Boston is being carried by that talented first line, capable of quick strikes, and extended zone time, led by David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand.
Those two players are hitting offensive highs, Pastrnak coming to his own as a course of development, and Marchand shunning the narrative of skills deterioration as players age to emerge as one of the NHL’s most dangerous forwards at age 31. Both are listed in the top-10 in scoring, while Pastrnak leads the league with 25 goals. Each player tops the 20% plateau in all-situation shooting percentage, the highest among all scorers throughout the top 31 scorers, and a prime reason for a potential downwards correction.
Both players have earned points on over 80% of 5v5 on-ice goals scored – a constant for Pastrnak who has always seemingly been around the puck while on the ice, mostly in an offensive capacity. These two players control the ice for the Bruins and contribute an extraordinary lode to the offense.
But Bergeron, is not putting up the same amount of points as his linemates, and the drop is distinct as well as prolonged. During the postseason, after the Bruins made quick work of the Hurricanes, I wrote about Bergeron’s impact and decline in offensive production.
In 2019-20 so far, these are the Bruins scoring leaders at 5v5. Two items that jump off from the image below, the high IPP (individual point percentage – points earned while on the ice), and the discrepancy between goals and expected goals (measured by ixG metric).
Bergeron is clearly lagging the group, with a career low point on 50% of on-ice goals, but also note the gap between the top scorers and the next in line in Charlie Coyle and David Krejci. There’s a risk of the Bruins suffering if their top scorers are left without any depth scoring support if (and most likely when) they hit an inevitable scoring funk.
At 5v4, with Pastrnak leading the team with 12 goals, he’s earned points on 85% of on-ice goals – continuing the expectation of being active with the puck and generating scoring. Bergeron, despite being third in production at 5v4, only has a point on 52.9% of the on-ice goals – showing him as a support mechanism, entrenched in the bumper spot, but not generating as many points as expected. To date, he actually leads the Bruins in individual scoring chances generated edging out Pastrnak, even if the points don’t match the contribution.
Boston has its challenges at 5v5 and with Bergeron having missed 11 of the last 13 games should have been a blow to the Bruins offensive capability, but that’s not necessarily so with his linemates still being very productive. At 5v5 Boston hasn’t scored more than twice in the last 13 games – both games without Bergeron in the lineup, coincidentally.
Brad Marchand (13-5-9-14) and David Pastrnak (13-9-5-14) have somewhat carried the offense, and even at a point per game pace, an argument can be made in which their offensive production has slowed. There could be team effects at play here, as well as missing the talented pivot from the top line.
Boston’s scoring chances from high danger scoring areas have had an uptick recently, but from the point of Bergeron’s injury, they’ve dropped, as has the propensity for low danger scoring chances. Medium danger chances have increased and these values are reflected in the 10-game moving average of high, medium and low danger chances, marked up to the point of Bergeron’s lower body injury here.
Team shooting percentage also depicts this sudden spike in high danger chances and the good fortune that it’s brought for the Bruins in recent games. To the Bruins credit, they’ve been capitalizing on their high danger chances, and it’s a clear reflection on their current run of success.
And while Boston’s increased medium danger chances at the expense of lower danger chances, they’ve had relatively little success generating scoring from that danger zone. If it wasn’t for the inflated HD shooting percentage, scoring at 5v5, this could be considered somewhat worrisome when coupled to the necessity of their top line scoring.
With the man-advantage, Boston had already begun a decline prior to Patrice Bergeron’s injury that continued until their last three games in which they hit double digits in shots twice.
They’ve matched their expected goals of 5.4 by scoring four during his absence. They scored once in the last game – taking 10 shots on goal, five from high danger areas, scoring once from that area. Boston’s last six goals at 5v4 consist of four from high danger areas.
Establishing the importance of getting shots through from high danger areas can’t be understated for sustainable success. What seems to be happening recently is Boston’s increased medium ranges chance generation has seeped into rebounds and plays from low danger areas into high danger areas. There is likely a strategical component that has been induced due necessity from the absence of Bergeron. Now that he’s back monitoring the Bruins for any tactical changes could prove beneficial to determine counter measures when facing them as an opponent. A smart team would make this comparison with more intricate data to come up with a vital strategy.[[ad:athena]]