By: Rich Miller (@pensbender)
Despite losing to the Bruins, it was an entertaining game and it’s important to remember it’s only November. Still, the game itself resembled one from the Eastern Conference Final last season. The Pens outplayed, outshot, and outchanced the Bruins – only to ultimately lose the game. Similarly, the Pens made Tuukka Rask look like a young Eddie Johnston in the process.
How do the Bruins keep doing this?
First, get to know Chris Boyle from Habs Eyes on the Prize who is a statistical madman and has developed what is known as the Shot Quality Project. Briefly explained, Chris charted more than 33,000 shots on goal and developed multiple heat indexes which represent higher scoring areas relative to multiple variables such as traffic and transition passes.
This index here takes all of those factors into consideration and represents the goalies save percentage via the shot location.
As expected, more goals are scored from in-close or toward the middle of the ice between the circles.
Now this chart is merely a reference point here as it represents every goalie in the NHL — not solely Tuukka Rask who I think we could all agree is one of the best in the game right now. You also have to consider the defense-first strategy the Bruins like to employ. It can be assumed that his respective percentages would probably be higher from the given areas.
Here is the Penguins shot chart from Monday nights loss via CBS Sports:
Notice how there is basically three shots from what could be considered a high-scoring area? Also, notice how one (Crosby’s) was a goal? The goals acting as my outliers here which deserve some recognition were the two absolute lasers from James Neal.
The Penguins outshot the Bruins 31-24 Monday night, but as we learned last year in the playoffs simply putting shots on Rask doesn’t get it done. The Blackhawks did what the Pens couldn’t against the Bruins. They forechecked their way to closer shots with traffic in front, and ultimately won the Stanley Cup.
Here is the Pens shot chart from their 3-2 win against the Bruins back on October 30.
At least ten shots were taken from what could be considered high scoring areas, two of which were goals.
The Bruins are the Pens biggest hurdle in the Eastern Conference. The blueprint to beat them is there, the Pens just have to keep finding ways to get inside the Bruins defense. The execution of this will have to be much better the next time these two meet. The question is, can they get it done with their current roster which isn’t exactly comprised of net-front presences?