With the Bruins now heading home after a 1-1-1 road trip to open the 2020-21 regular season, here’s a look at seven noteworthy stats that shed some light on a few of the strengths and weaknesses of this B’s club in the early going.
0.2: The expected goals against rate of the Frederic-Kuraly-Wagner line at 5v5 play
Well, it seems like the Bruins might have found their fourth line.
For as much as Boston's forward corps has left a lot to be desired through the first three games of the 2021 season, the Bruins' revamped fourth line has been a buzzsaw out of the gate — controlling play, extending O-zone shifts and most importantly, negating top-six opponents down the other end of the ice.
Despite having just 7.69% of their faceoffs set in the offensive zone (!), the Bruins hold the edge in ...
Shots on goal: 12-4
Scoring chances: 7-3
High-danger scoring chances: 2-0
... in the 24:28 of 5v5 ice time that the Frederic-Kuraly-Wagner line has logged so far this season.
In terms of expected goal percentage, that Bruins fourth line is actually in some pretty elite company, with only five other forward trios posting a greater xGoals% out of the gate — including powerhouse lines such as Vegas' Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone and Toronto's Thornton-Matthews-Marner triumvirates.
(For Reference: Expected goals accounts for both shot quantity and quality by factoring in multiple shot factors, including the type of shot, distance from the net, angle, 5v5, power play, penalty kill, etc. As such, a player with a low expected goals against rate means that opposing teams aren’t generating good looks when he’s out on the ice).
It remains to be seen if this checking line can continue to tilt the ice so heavily in Boston's favor when they take on more daunting top-six opponents with Washington, Pittsburgh and New York, but so far, you can't ask for anything better than what this revamped Kuraly line has provided.
.842: Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak's high-danger save percentage at even strength
Another bright spot for the Bruins out of the gate is their goaltending, with both Rask and Halak combining to stop 65 of the 70 shots that came their way against the Devils and Islanders.
Now, a good amount of credit does need to be given to Boston's defensive structure in front of both goalies, as Boston has fared pretty well in terms of keeping both goalies off the ropes against the opposition. Of the 36 goalies that have logged at least 50 minutes of even-strength ice time this season, Halak ranks 22nd in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes (2.06), while Rask ranks 26th in the same category (1.75).
When compared to some other netminders who are asked to withstand salvos of shots and Grade-A chances game after game (San Jose's Martin Jones paces the pack with an absurd xGA/60 of 4.11), both Rask and Halak have been supported by a defense that has kept major miscues to a minimum.
(When it comes to xGA/60, Halak (in the upper right quadrant) has faced more quality looks than Rask (upper left quadrant), but both goalies have stood tall when needed.)
Of course, even the stoutest and structured defense can only do so much, but both Rask and Halak have bailed out their team when needed, stopping 16 of the 19 high-danger scoring generated against them during even-strength play. Boston's defense has been better than expected, but had it not been for both Rask and Halak's clutch stops when needed, Boston's record could be a whole lot worse than 1-1-1, given their lack of production down the other end of the ice.
100%: Boston's success rate on the penalty kill to open the season
If you're looking for another bright spot in the early going, look no further than the B's penalty kill — which, even without its anchor in Zdeno Chara — has negated all 13 opposing power plays that it's gone up against, while also tallying a shorthanded goal down the other end of the ice. While some of the usual suspects such as Patrice Bergeron, Brandon Carlo, Brad Marchand and Sean Kuraly have stood tall, Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka have also been useful additions, with the speedy forwards routinely pressuring puck carries and forcing turnovers.
So far, so good.
"Well, it keeps you in games," Cassidy said following Monday's loss to the Islanders. "Especially tonight, we seem to have a lot of calls again. ... But at the end of the day, they kill it and you got to be able to do that, especially if you're not scoring, right? So it was big the other night in Jersey, helped us get a point. Tonight, kept us in the game. Like to see your power play come through in a game like that, but give (New York) credit. They're long, they take care of the front of their net. Goaltender obviously made saves when he had to, but I'm pleased with the PK — those young D are battling hard. They're settling in nicely. It's only been three games, but they seem comfortable."
8.16: The Bruins' 5v5 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes rate