NHL Notebook: Revisiting 25 Bruins predictions, observations before 2019-20 season – which held up? (Part I)

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

It remains to be seen if we’re going to receive some sense of finality for the 2019-20 NHL season — a campaign filled with plenty of promise for a motivated Bruins club.

Even if the Bruins are able to see this year through and get another shot at competing for a Stanley Cup, there stands a chance that the remaining 10-12 games on the regular-season slate could be wiped out in favor of a larger playoff format.

As such, we thought now would be a perfect time to revisit our extensive list of stats, facts and predictions that dropped at the outset of the regular season back in October.

While we revisited a few of these back in January, we figured now would be a perfect time to see just how many of these factoids and underlying numbers ended up defining what we already know about a loaded Bruins roster.

Let’s take a look...

0.92: Charlie McAvoy’s 5v5 primary points per 60 minutes rate in 2018-19

Yes, we know. It took Charlie McAvoy until February 5 to finally light the lamp this season. But for all the grief he received up to that point, we noted on the night of his OT winner in Chicago that the dynamic defenseman was already arguably the club's most effective driver of 5v5 offense from the blue line. 

Such was the case last season, even.

Despite not earning regular power-play minutes due to the presence of Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk, McAvoy's playmaking ability and strong transition game make him a consistent generator of offense during the heavy 5v5 reps he logs — with his 0.92 primary points (goals and primary assists) per 60 minutes rate last year ranking ninth overall among NHL defenseman (min. 500 minutes).

So far this season, McAvoy is averaging 1.25 5v5 points per 60 minutes — tops among all Bruins defensemen and 19th among NHL defensemen that have played a minimum of 500 5v5 minutes.

Add in the discrepancy in terms of shot volume and quality scoring chances when McAvoy is on and off the ice for Boston, and it's tough to argue against the fact that McAvoy, even at 22 years old, is an invaluable cog that gets the B's offense rolling.

(For reference on Micah Blake McCurdy’s individual impact charts via Hockey Viz: On the offensive side of things, you’d want to see a player providing positive numbers — with the red blobs signifying where the team is generating a majority of their shots from whenever said player is on the ice. Defensively, negative numbers are a sign that a team is snuffing out opposing scoring chances whenever said player is on the ice. As such, the blue blobs represent where the opposition’s shots aren’t regularly coming from.)

Oh, and if it makes you feel any better — he also scored five goals over his last 16 games before the pause. Yes, he's damn good.

58.90: Patrice Bergeron’s offensive zone faceoff percentage in 2018-19

Given the amount of mileage that Patrice Bergeron has put on his body over 16 seasons in Boston, the Bruins would be wise to take whatever steps necessary in order to keep their top-line center fresh.

One approach they've taken over the last couple of seasons has been granting the 34-year-old pivot added faceoffs in the offensive zone, limiting Bergeron from those arduous shifts spent killing penalties or slowing down the opposition down the other end of the sheet.

Granted, Bergeron still regularly excels as one of the top two-way forwards in the NHL, but it's become pretty apparent that the Bruins have shifted more and more of Bergeron's starts within the opponent's side of the ice.

If we were to look at a stretch from 2013-16, Bergeron’s Off. Zone Faceoff % was:

2013-14: 46.45%
2014-15: 43.00%
2015-16: 44.91%

But last year, especially with the emergence of David Pastrnak as one of the premier snipers in the league, 58.90% of Bergeron's faceoffs came in the O-zone — a testament to the club's preference of keeping their center away from those taxing minutes spent snuffing out scoring chances in the B's own end. That number has jumped up again in 2019-20, with 62.77% of Bergeron's face-offs this season coming in the offensive zone. Considering how invaluable Bergeron is to this club, coupled with the production the team has reaped thanks to his increased O-zone reps (31 goals, 56 points in 61 games), look for Boston to continue to lighten Bergeron's defensive workload in the coming years.

72:07: Anders Bjork’s Corsi For Percentage during the 2019 preseason: 

From October:

While expectations were a bit muted for Bjork this preseason coming off of another year ended by major shoulder surgery, the Notre Dame product really stood out in September — standing as one of Boston’s final roster cuts before heading down to Providence, where he should benefit from some heavy minutes against lesser competition. Still, it’s hard to ignore Bjork’s impact on the ice over four preseason games, with Boston holding an absurd 80-31 edge in shot attempts during his 54:49 of 5v5 TOI. He’ll be back with the big club in short order.

Sure enough, it didn't take Bjork very long to rejoin the big club — with the promising winger getting the call three weeks into the new season and appearing in 58 total games with Boston before the pause.

It was unrealistic for Bjork to maintain such lopsided puck-possession metrics during the regular season, and sure enough, consistent O-zone production has often been the culprit when it comes to the expected lulls in his game — with the crafty forward possessing a 49.79% shot share during 5v5 play. Among B's forwards with at least 400 minutes of 5v5 ice time, only Boston's fourth line of  Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly have a lower expected goals for per 60 minutes rate than Bjork's 1.99.

Still, Bjork has turned heads in other areas of his game — with the winger ranking fifth among B's skaters (min. 400 minutes) in goals against per 60 minutes of play with a rate of 1.76. You switch that to expected goals against per 60 minutes — only Grzelcyk has a lower rate than Bjork’s 1.82.

Add in the fact that Bjork led all Bruins skaters in terms of entries (carrying it in, dumping it in, etc.) per 60 minutes with a rate of 25.80, and Bjork already projects as a responsible, two-way forward with the speed to really aid Boston's transition game. If added reps lead to more consistent offensive production, Boston could really have something here.

106.1: The average point total for teams the year after losing the Stanley Cup Final (over the last 10 seasons)