I spent last night in a dive bar. I sat next to a gentleman I went to high school with, watched the Bruins try their damnedest to get a puck by an NHL goaltender and listened as a pair of women, each presumably single and in their mid-to-late-30's, discussed their desperate need for a companion so they wouldn't need to shovel the driveway this winter.
After several attempts to woo the bartender, a man whose personality rivaled a cardboard box, our shoveling-impaired-duo closed their respective tabs, announced their intentions to "buy some fucking cigarettes because its been that kind of day", slouched their way past a man singing (just sort of drunkenly mumbling, actually) Rammstein's Du Hast and out onto the bar's scenic patio deck (which is actually a slab of concrete and a fire pit that sits across from an empty field and an apartment complex where there are more shootings per year than there are parking spots.) And before you ask it, no, this is not a tourism ad for Manchester, Connecticut - New England's most forgettable town.
I feel confident stating these women left the bar much like the Bruins exited the Staples Center tonight; down on their luck, frustrated and in need of a pick me up before the grueling grind of winter kicks in. Like the Bruins, who appear to be well-off on the surface and whose struggles are somewhat of a head-scratcher, perhaps it's just a case of bad luck that has our extroverted bar-gals down in the dumps. After all, being single in a town where the main export is masturbating perverts with a failed-athlete-complex is a phenomenon that even statistics can't explain.
However, in the Bruins case, statistics can provide us with some insight.
Without looking into the numbers, it's obvious the Bruins main area of weakness is lies within their middle-of-the-road, inconsistent offense. Take some time out of your personal life, sit down and watch a handful of Bruins games. It's going to become painfully clear this team has a very difficult time getting the rubber disc, or puck as it's called nowadays, past the scary masked man wearing snazzy padding; a key component when one aims to win a competitive sporting match of hockey.
With just 61 goals in 26 games, Boston's 2.35 goals-per-game average is good enough for 23rd in the NHL, sandwiching them between the re-branded and not-very-good Arizona Coyotes (22nd - 2.38) and the basement-dwelling Carolina Hurricanes (24th - 2.33). From Carolina down, there are no teams poised to make a playoff push - unless of course Cory Schneider channels Vladisav Tretiak over the next four months and Jaromir Jagr suddenly becomes 25 again, but I digress.
What kills Boston offensively is their 7.84 shooting percentage, checking in at 26th among NHL teams that, according to general knowledge, both exist and have played in 2014-2015. At even strength, Boston jumps to 22nd (7.12%) and if you're looking to get more specific and nerdy, at 5-on-5 close the B's move to 17th (7.08%).
|CF/60 5-on-5||SF/60 5-on-5||CF/60 5-on-5, Close||SF/60 5-on-5, Close||SH% 5-on-5||SH% 5-on-5, Close|
Basically, as the table above indicates, the Bruins have little trouble generating the offensive chances their rivals are typically able to put out in a game. The issue, and what sparks my theory of just piss-poor luck, is that their shooting percentages are woefully lower than everyone else. And I say woefully because teams like Columbus, San Jose and Winnipeg enjoy dragging the league down with their spine-chilling, Stephen-King-gas-station-clearance-horror-novel shooting percentages.
When looking to answer how Boston will improve on their less-than-stellar shooting ways, we'll put it in God's hands that Lord Carl Soderberg will improve on his lowly 5.13% during 5-on-5 play, as well as hoping someone insists that Loui Eriksson shoot more. Considering the latter of the Swede's 5-on-5 corsi is humping 60%, and his shots-per-60 checks in at just 4.68, it's painfully obvious that Eriksson is far too passive. For a guy who's scored 30 goals in the NHL before, which essentially guarantees his shot is capable of beating top-of-the-line goalies, it drives me nuts to see someone pass up so many opportunities to get the puck on net. Personally, I'd sit him down in a room with David Pastrnak and have the kid explain how much fun it can be to shoot the puck. Crazy, yes, but at this point I'd try anything if I was in Claude's shoes.
Speaking of Pastrnak, he's going to help matters if he continues to play as well as he has since being recalled last week. (See nifty pass below as validation.)
But back to my point, the pieces are there for the Bruins to improve offensively. Soderberg, if statistics and averages and all that fun math stuff prove their worth, will increase to about a 7% shooter. Not out of reach by any means for a player of his caliber. Eriksson, god willing he shoots more, will add tallies. The number of which is largely dependent on just how drastically he increases his SF/60. At 7.41%, he's one of their stronger statistical trigger-men, so forgive me for having some optimism surrounding the guy who will always be unjustifiably compared to Tyler Seguin.
Given how strong they are at preventing goals from being scored, the Bruins are going to be fine - and by fine I mean in the playoffs but probably not a top seed - regardless of how much the offense improves from this point moving forward. Opponents have a .922 save percentage against the B's, which is the sixth best in the NHL, and have been forced to make 716 saves against our hometown heroes, placing them fifth in that category. Again, one has to imagine pucks will start going in a bit more often. But who knows, this team feels like 2009-2010 all over again, so maybe they'll be snake-bitten all year.
God that'd suck, eh?