Look up "stealing a game" in the Hockey Dictionary, and you get a picture of the box score of last night's game. Boston was outplayed for most of night, but was saved thanks to Tuukka Rask's dark Finnish Magic and a sweet play by Lucic, McQuaid and Krejci to score the GWG with .8 seconds on the clock.
Those of you already hip to Corsi/Fenwick probably know what to expect in regard to tonight's game--per fancystays, tonight's victory was highway robbery at its finest--but how have the B's done recently? Read on!
Stretching back to more than a week ago, and the last time the Bruins lost, the B's actually played a pretty solid game against Detroit, only losing the Fenwick Close battle 22-19, and winning the Corsi Close (though it should be noted that Fenwick Close correlates higher with actual victories) 29-25. No doubt there were some score effects at work - sometimes, these stats can be deceiving, as the team with the lead tends to not create as many chances.
Detroit adhered to this tendency, going up 3-1 in the 2nd and falling back on their heels (figuratively speaking) a bit. Nonetheless, this is one game where if the Bruins had managed to beat a back-up goalie one more time (and they probably should've), they might've grabbed at least a point.
(October 17th) Bruins 3, Panthers 2
In a flashback to several games from last year's second half, the Bruins completely outplayed an opponent but struggled to get the victory. Boston dominated both Fenwick and Corsi events, 49-35 and 40-29, respectively. Only some stellar netminding by our old friend Tim Thomas and some key clears by Florida kept the score close. Goals from Dougie Hamilton and Daniel Paille had the B's up 2-0, a lead that they surrendered after Jonathan Huberdeau broke through for the Panthers and someone named Jesse Winchester knotted the game at two.
In what's become an early season pattern, which is both super cool and probably not entirely likely to continue, the Bruins pulled the game out with a late goal, as Reilly Smith floated a weak backhander by Tim Thomas, who was caught trying ninjakick the puck into the stratosphere and embarassingly let in Smith's first Bruins goal. Needless to say, Smith was set up by a brilliant little pass from Patrice Bergeron. While this game was close, the Bruins definitely controlled the "run of play," and deserved the victory.
(October 19th) Bruins 5, Lightning 0
Remember "score effects"? They return with a vengeance for this game. The Lightning held a slight edge in Fenwick 34-31, and the usually more predictive Fenwick Close 11-7, but were nonetheless dominated on the scoreboard due to the Bruins ability to find the net both early (The Matrix scored 1:32 into the game) and often (three second period goals).
So while the Lightning had their chances while the game was still close, they whiffed on them, while the Bruins didn't. And with the score 4-0 going into the 3rd period, the Bruins didn't exactly have incentive to pile it on. So yes, the Lightning won the Fenwick Close battle, but the game stopped being close...in Boston's favor, and thus we have another example of why we use these stats in conjunction with other information, rather than just blindly accept the FC as the final word on a single game. Score effects score effects score effects - they almost always come into play somewhat in a lopsided game.
Did I mention that Lightning goaltenders have a habit of allowing every shot to go in against the B's? Keep that up, Tampa!
Bruins 5, Sabres 2
There was a Hockey game here, the Bruins dominated it. Chad Johnson is shaky in net. I don't really have much else to add on the subject.
Bruins 2, Sharks 1
Rarely will you see a game where one team outchances the other by so much still fails to take even a point. The other two examples of lopsided-event games that were close on the scoreboard involved the Lightning and the Blackhawks, and both times Chicago managed to at least grab the loser point for their superior efforts. The Sharks? Nope. 0.8 seconds. 35-14 in Fenwick Close in favor of San Jose, but Tuukka Rask saved Boston's collective butt.
This game literally just happened, so I don't really have to remind you all of what it was like. It wasn't just fancystats domination, it didn't pass the vaunted eye test either. The Sharks are being talked about, correctly, as a Cup contender in some circles. Games like tonight are a reason for that, because games like tonight end with SJ taking the two points nine times out of ten, and they dominate the possession battle on a regular basis.
That said, it was a great effort by Rask to steal the game for Boston, and it was wonderful to see Iginla get off the 'scneid. And yet again, the Bruins tapped in a late goal, this one after a carry-in by Lucic, a shot by McQuaid, and a beautiful tip by the Matrix.
The Curious Case of Brad Marchand's Handling
Brad Marchand is not a fungible, easily replaceable player. His absence from the second line has been felt in both in possession driving and scoring, and he's one of the best in the league in terms of getting into opponent's heads and drawing penalties. On top of this, he's coming off three straight seasons of scoring more 2 points per 60 minutes on ice (2 ESP/60), and is one of the better 5v5 players in the Eastern Conference.
His replacement, Reilly Smith, has been a passenger in the possession game, being the only Bergeron-line player who registers in the negative in Relative Corsi, but he has picking up points of late. However, all but one of those points are on assists while playing with two possession-drivers in Bergeron and Eriksson, and Smith doesn't have a track record in any league that suggest he's half the player Marchand is. While Marchand was given back Top 6 time tonight, he's yet to get his power play spot back, and his point totals are suffering due to misuse and low numbers that won't be repeated.
The Bruins shooting percentage, as a team, is under 3% with Marchand on the ice. Forget whether that's luck or bad shooting or what have you, that's a number that will come up over the course of the season. It always does when there's a weird outlier such as this. The only way that number might increase slower is...well, if Marchand continues to take shifts with less skilled linemates. Thankfully, Marchand at least seems to be reunited with Bergy for the time being. Unfortunately, it took Loui Eriksson's concussion to make that happen.
Essentially, while the Bruins may have not soured on Marchand the way they did with Seguin, they were/are treating him similarly to late-last-year-Seguin. "You aren't producing the way we want over a small stretch, so now we'll give you less opportunities to score and play you with worse linemates, creating a situation where you continue to underperform." It doesn't take a genius to find the problem with that logic. Hopefully, now that Marchand's back on the second line, he'll earn his power play time back too. Otherwise the Bruins will be cutting off their collective nose to spite their face.