Here’s the first installment of our Round-Robin Analytics Report:
In the NHL’s round-robin, the Boston Bruins will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals. All formidable opponents providing the Bruins with an excellent opportunity to refine their game ahead of the playoffs.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Bruins matchup against each team through the analytics lens. First up, the Lightning, a team primed to prove last season’s first round exit was nothing but a blip on route to an eventual Stanley Cup Championship.
Head to Head Matchup
It’s easy to see using the VERSUS H2H chart that both teams are elite. The Lightning has improved their five-on-five defense from last season, however, this improvement on the defensive side of the puck comes with a loss of offense, as both the five-on-five and power play are less potent than last season.
The Bruins bring a familiar look with an elite defensive game and mid-range five-on-five offense that’s backed-up with one of the most dangerous power plays in the NHL.
Although the Lightning may have an edge during five-on-five play with a stronger attack scoring 2.95 goals per 60 mins compared to the Bruin’s scoring rate of 2.55, the special teams advantage goes to Boston. The Bruins score almost one more goal per 60 power-play mins than the Lightning and shave off more than a goal against more on the penalty kill.
Who’s More Special, Bruins Or Lightning
Statistically speaking, this is where the big difference lies between these teams. The Bruins are a pillar of strength on the penalty kill ranks third overall on the analytics True Penalty Kill Ranking which considers more data including scoring rate and shorthanded goals scored, compared to the classic penalty-killing percentage used by the NHL.
The Bruins are above-average when it comes to penalty killing aggressiveness and have scored five shorthanded goals. The Lightning has allowed seven shorthanded goals that dampen the effectiveness of their power play somewhat.
The Bruins penalty kill matches well against a strong and dangerous Lightning power play, but the same can’t be said the other way around. Tampa Bay’s penalty-killing in the only average, ranking 14th in the league and will have to face a Bruins team that ranks second only to the Edmonton Oilers on the power play. What’s worse, is the drop in the Lightning’s penalty-killing performance before the season was paused. In the last 10 games, there was a marked drop in penalty killing save percentage from a near-league-average of 86.5% to 78.9%, fourth-worst in the league.
Who to Watch? Blake Coleman
Even before this dip in penalty killing performance, Lightning management identified this area as a concern, and traded for Blake Coleman. He is an exceptional penalty killer as illustrated by the Penalty Kill Power Profile chart below. His performance, and the penalty kill as a whole, will be something to watch against the Bruins. Can the Bruins exploit this weakness and the adjustment period for Coleman on the penalty-killing unit?
Overall, the Bruins penalty killing units are more effective than the Lightning suppressing chances against at a greater rate and, at the same time, are more of a threat to go on the attack while shorthanded. The Bruins penalty-killing becomes more of an advantage when you add in the goaltending component which has been superior to the Lightning’s all season. The Bruin’s goaltenders posted an 88.7 save percentage while shorthanded ranking five in the league, whereas the Lightning have an 86.5 save percentage which ranks below the NHL average.
Can Lightning D Shutdown Bruins Offense?
If you haven’t been paying attention, the Lightning has really changed their game since being unceremoniously swept out of the playoff last season by the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’ve gone from an average five-on-five defensive team to one of the best in the league. This improved defense is reflected in Nikita Kucherov’s game this season, which has improved markedly with a 2.0 on-ice five-on-five goals against per 60 mins compared to 2.7 last season.
Comparing each team’s snipers – David Pastrnak and Kucherov – you can see that the Lightning’s high octane winger has very strong five-on-five numbers but doesn’t match the power play numbers Pastrnak has put up this season.
As you can see through our Rounrobin Analytics Report the Lightning’s much improved five-on-five defense, the Bruin’s greatest opportunity to exploit an advantage seems to be on special teams. Only time will tell. Let the games begin!