One of the interesting stories of the season, from a fancystats perspective, has been the Bruins slight decline from an elite Fenwick Close team to a merely very good one, especially in light of different roster changes and line deployments. The Bruins sit 9th in the NHL in FC% after a recent hot streak, done from 5th overall last season, and had dropped as low as 15th, so they have managed to sneak back into the top third. Nonetheless, in the, um, more...wide open Eastern Conference, that's good for 1st in the Atlantic division. The goaltending of Tuukka Rask has been stellar, also, and Chad Johnson has done a credibly job as a back-up; one of the primary reasons that the Bruins haven't hit a rough stretch since October has been the team's save percentage still be over .930.
Surprisingly, the Montreal Canadiens have not maintained their own strong possession numbers from a year ago, despite their own recent success. The Habs've dropped from 7th in the NHL last season to a pedestrian 16th, and it's not all the possession millstone that is Douglas Murray (an early candidate for pylon of the year). As with the Bruins, though, they've received stellar goaltending. We hate the Habs, of course, but the rivalry's more fun when the opposing team's good. Carey Price has rebounded to well beyond "good," currently sitting at a .937. Budaj has also been solid in backing him up, and the Habs, as a team, are also saving more than 93% of SOG.
Elite possession teams, these two are not. Very good teams getting ridiculous goaltending, they are. Thursday night is going to be fun - the stats don't lie.
On to the wrap-up of the past week's games:
Bruins 4, Penguins 3 (OT)
I was at this game. This game freaking ruled. That's my official analysis.
Okay, but seriously, this was a great game. The Bruins ended up with a slight edge in Fenwick and Corsi Close, 28-25 and 36-32, respectively, despite the fact that the Pens have been the best possession team in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins, to their credit, slightly out-attempted the Bruins overall. As much as I don't like the Penguins, they're a fun team to watch live, and their style appears quite different from the Bruins' own system. The overall result was a great game between two of the EC's best, culminating in a snipe from the left circle by a Hobbit. Hockey is awesome.
As a postscript, this was definitely one of those games where it's clear that there's a tangible difference between starting a great goalie and starting a merely above average one -- it's hard to believe that the Penguins still want to roll the dice with Fleury. Rask outplayed him by leaps and bounds.
Red Wings 6, Bruins 1
You're probably already familiar the fact that this game was bad, so I'll use this space to highlight two things from the fancystats perspective. The first is PDO - I had a few friends who I introduced to the concept ask me if the Bruins could maintain a higher-than-normal PDO because "Rask is about 20 times better than your average goalie," and the answer's yes. In fact, they historically have. It's just games like these show why it's so darn difficult to keep a .940+ SV% -- you're going to have stinkers, as a goalie, and as a team, and eventually regression will bring you towards, just maybe not all the way to, the mean.
The second is a word on Fenwick Close - the numbers here, 9-7 in shot attempts that were not blocked, don't accurately portray Detroit's dominance in this game. That is one of the limitations on the stat - it doesn't tell the whole story usually, of course. But it tells even less of the story...when the game isn't close. If a game becomes a blowout very quickly, and the trailing team never brings it back within a goal, then you're usually better off looking at the scoreboard for the better part of the story.
Bruins 3, Rangers 2
Some of the Bruins thought this was the best game that they'd played all season, and while the totally-biased part of me wants to give the nod to the victory over the Penguins, this was one of the better performances from the B's we've seen this year. The New York Rangers, despite some PDO struggles, have been slightly better than the Bruins in the possession department this season, so watching the Bruins thoroughly outplay and out-FC them was a satisfying experience. And yes, it helps that Boston's one of the few teams that hasn't had issues solving Henrik Lundqvist.
The Bruins came out on top 32-20 in Fenwick events with the score close, 45-26 in Corsi. While the Rangers took an early lead based on a couple breakdowns, Boston deserved to win the game, and the two-goal, third period comeback accurately reflected this. In need of pucks in the net, Chara and Bergeron, as they have so often in the past, delivered the goods.
Bruins 3, Blue Jackets 1
When you surprise people by breaking up a Chad Johnson shutout, you know the game has gone exceptionally poor for your team. Here are the list of qualifiers that should be considered before going into the stats:
- This was the second half of a back-to-back for Columbus.
- Everyone on the Blue Jackets is currently injured.
- They had the road game on the second half of said back-to-back, which is extremely rough.
- Everyone on the Blue Jackets is current injured.
- The Blue Jackets aren't very good.
- Did I mention they've had injury problems?
Injury-ravaged, tired opponent notwithstanding, you've got to play well to win a Hockey game (or just have your goaltender make 40 saves, but you get the idea), and the Bruins definitely did; in one of their first good showings in the second game of a back-to-back, the B's out-Corsi'd the Jackets 51-29, out Fenwick'd them 38-16(!), and dominated the game in Fenwick Close as well, 13-4.
That's it for this week!
Beat the Habs. That is all.