This would’ve been an objective review of the Boston Bruins defense pairings in a similar way to the forward post that went up earlier today. Lots of analysis and such.
Well, I could do that, but honestly, Sean Tierney’s visuals can tell you a much...much better story than I ever could.
Namely, I want to look here at a chart and visual with you for a second.
And I want you to note the number of Leaf logos that are indicated as “bad” on this:
Edited for clarity: For reference and clarity’s sake, Carry-in% is the percentage of controlled zone entries allowed by the player, which is important because many teams like setting up their attack by having control of the puck. Possession Exit% is the percentage of which the players has control of the puck and gets it out of the defensive zone themselves. Notice, that half of the Leafs defense cannot be described as anything other than just bad at defending and getting the puck up ice. Isn’t that something?
In fact, even the good players on their defense have some...curious quirks to them.
But oh, you might be saying, isn’t Adam McQuaid not on this? Surely you know how he is in comparison to players on the Maple Leafs, right?
Yes, Yes I do.
But what I’m going to do is play a game with you! You get to play “Is this Maple Leaf better analytically than Adam McQuaid?”
So let’s go down the line!
Is the Maple Leafs defense better than Adam McQuaid?:
The magic number you want to remember is 51.23%, Adam McQuaid’s even strength Corsi-For%, and this is important...This the benchmark of which a player on the Maple Leafs better than the least impactful shooter and possessor on the Boston Bruins, which is fine for McQuaid, because his job is usually “passer to puck carrier” and “win battles for puck in corners” kind of guy. This is very important because I want you to know that this gets hysterical.
From the Top pairing down:
- Morgan Reilly? No! His 5-on-5 CF% is slightly lower than Adam McQuaids! For the record, you usually want your #1 defenseman to be better than a bottom pairing guy in most cases!
- Ron Hainsey? No! Ron Hainsey’s 5-on-5 CF% is at 47.78%. Far worse than Adam McQuaid!
- Jake Gardiner? No! Gardiner, the supposed premiere puck mover of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is in fact worse at possessing the puck and shooting it than Adam McQuaid at even strength! His CF% is 49.36%
- Nikita Zaitsev? God no, worst on the leafs! Adam McQuaid is FAR more impactful than Zaitsev at even strength, with Zaitsev turning in a 47.49%
- Travis Dermott? YES! Finally! We have, definitively, one player on the Toronto Maple Leafs defense corps who can say they are far more impactful than Adam McQuaid with a pretty good 54.87%!
- Roman Polak?
Yeah. You get the picture.
Yeah. Our dear friend Micah over at Hockeyviz now has over 3000 minutes of time between Toronto and Boston letting shots hit their goalies, and I’d like to share with you just how much of a disparity this is.
So what does this actually tell us?:
- Toronto’s Defense pairings are quite weak: The Maple Leafs had plenty of opportunity to fix the general problem of a defense that is fast...just not defensively skilled. They did not go and fix this, and have dealt with the repurcussions of that perfectly fine.
- Boston’s defensive system doesn’t just work, it works very well: The reason I used Adam McQuaid as a benchmark was not just because he ended up being better than 5 out of 6 players on the Leafs, but because Bruce Cassidy’s system is so well tuned and so well designed that even it’s most stay-at-home, contribute nothing but decent passes player can be better than a number of different players on different teams.
- Frederik Andersen is basically the Leafs key defender: It is up to Boston to test Andersen as much as humanly possible. Easy shots, crazy shots, tricky shots, high danger chances, low danger chances. You name it? They have to pummel him with them, and if they can set up an offensive rhythm of “sustained blanket fire”, they can start to break him apart, as well as the Leafs defense.