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Matchup Analysis: Bruins’ breakout vs. Maple Leafs

Looking for trends in the Bruins breakout against the Leafs

NHL: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports


As a continuation of yesterday’s articles, we will now take a look at the Bruins’ breakout against the Maple Leafs’ forecheck. I highly recommend reading those articles first as I am avoiding repeating myself for the sake of the read time for each individual article. We will follow a similar process to yesterday’s articles.

A Look at the Data

The Bruins have a completely different philosophy than the Maple Leafs when it comes to transitioning the puck. Bruce Cassidy and his staff prefer to control the puck throughout the transition process.

Unsurprisingly, a focus on possessing the puck leads to both a higher controlled exit percentage as well as failed exit percentage. This may be a source of frustration for the “glass & out” kind of people.

The chart above, which plots all of the Bruins’ exit attempts, doesn’t look a whole lot different than yesterday. There is a bigger sample size, partially because the Bruins are better at breaking up cycles in their own zone, and getting to loose pucks in the offensive zone. However, that is neither here nor there.

We can also look at the last pass reception and skating path to exit as we did yesterday. At this point, it becomes clear that the Bruins are far more successful when they complete at least one pass. Additionally, they are able to complete passes in the center lane, and skate vertically once they receive these passes. This was something that the Maple Leafs couldn’t do against the Bruins in the season series.

At this point, I was curious as to whether or not what caused the exit attempt was factor. Attempting to exit the zone after retrieving a dump-in should be easier than after retrieving a rebound.

While this relationship seems to exist, I don’t find the difference to be great enough to warrant any further investigation. Continuing to look for any trends that may exist, I began to look at the success the Bruins had based on the pressure they received from the Maple Leafs forecheck.

While the Bruins deployed two or more forecheckers below the faceoff dots 71% of the time off of entries, the Leafs only did this 54% of the time.

The 46% of the time the Maple Leafs only deploy one forward below the faceoff dots, the Bruins are wildly successful. They control 44% of their exit attempts and have a weighted successful exit percentage of 45%.

When the Maple Leafs deploy more than one forward, the Bruins controlled exit percentage drops to about 21% with a weighted successful exit percentage of about 22%. This drastic difference is worth looking into.

A Look at the Tape

Before we dive into the film, I think it’s important to understand what the Bruins do to defend zone entries. I’ve written about this before, but the Bruins aggressiveness at the blue line essentially changes the roles of the center (or first forward back) and the defenseman who is not handling the puck when it comes to the breakout.

This rim right to a Maple Leaf stick may drive a lot of people nuts, as it should, but why did this happen? There are no passing options for Carlo.

Initially, you could argue that there may have been a chance for Carlo to reverse the puck up the boards to Krug. However, the Bruins have their skates pointed to the weak side. With the first forechecker already pressuring Carlo down low, the Leafs bring in another forechecker who seals the deal and forces Carlo to get rid of the puck. Had Backes hustled to support the play behind the net, perhaps the Bruins wouldn’t have turned the puck over here.

In the clip above, the Leafs use their F3 to take away the rim play. Torey Krug sees this, and with a forward following him behind the net, he reverses the play to Brandon Carlo. With the play slowed down, the Leafs are able to contract and eventually force a turnover.

In the play above, the Maple Leafs bring relentless pressure. While Patrice “Mr. Selke” Bergeron supports Chara, the pressure from Zach Hyman forces him to push the play up the boards. The pinching defenseman and high forward are able to finish the job and force the turnover for the Leafs.


The Bruins prefer to control the puck through transition. This helps them control a higher percentage of exits, but also increases their failure rate. The Bruins also perform significantly better when the Leafs only bring one forechecker below the faceoff dots. We will dive into this more in the next article.