This year the Boston Bruins have left me scratching my head. Going into the fall, I feared having to watch one of the weakest defensive hockey teams in the league. I imagined another year like last, where the Bruins had numerous games lost despite scoring 3-5 goals. But the statistics show that this is a year of opposites. The defense has done much better than expected, letting up only 2.4 goals per game which is 7th in the league. The Bruins also have the 2nd best penalty kill in all of hockey, another surprising statistic.
I wasn't sure how goalie Tuukka Rask would respond to having his worst season as a pro last year. Needless to say, he has returned to his elite-form that we all grew accustomed to just a few years ago with a record of 19-8-3, a save percentage of .928 while allowing only 1.98 goals per game. Not to mention we have finally started to see some growth with some of the young Boston defensemen.
All of these trends give me some confidence going forward that maybe this team isn't as far away from being a contender as I thought.
The offense has been a different story. The Bruins have only managed to average 2.3 goals per game while having a powerplay success rate of 14.1 percent. These statistics show that the Bruins are one of the 5 lowest scoring teams in the league. If you look at the scoring talent on this team, these statistics frustrate you. This team has Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, David Backes, and Ryan Spooner. All of these guys have the talent to put the puck in the net 20+ times a season, some even have the talent to be potential league leaders in that category. So what's the deal?
To address one obvious observation, Patrice Bergeron is not healthy right now. He looks much slower than he was last year which is detrimental to his style of play. Marchand has had a lot of opportunities and is still almost a point per game player, however, he leads the team in penalty minutes. When your leading goal scorer from a year ago is spending more time in the penalty box than anyone on the team, it's easy to say that a statistic like that can certainly lead to less scoring.
Despite getting many shots on net, the Bruins haven't been able to capitalize. The Bruins aren't making these tough shots for goalies to save. The goalie is seeing the puck well, and the Bruins aren't picking their spots effectively. Despite these being troubling trends, I don't think this can effect the team long-term. This team simply has too much talent offensively for this to last throughout a whole season. I'm just worried that they won't find their scoring touch until it is too late.
The season isn't lost. The Bruins are still 2nd in the Atlantic division and the season isn't even half over. But now is about the time where changes need to be seen. Recent years have shown that falling out of the playoff picture mid-season usually results in missing the post-season altogether. This team has the talent to be a playoff team and I think they will benefit greatly from the all-star break that isn't too far away. Though I am a bit nervous, I still think there is time for them to figure things out and get this season on the right track.
Stay strong Bruins fans!
Ryan "Mully" Mulligan