Boston Bruins, 2009-10
Goals For: 206 29th
Goals Against: 200 2nd
GVT: 6 13th
Points: 91 14th
VUKOTA Projection for 2010-11
Goals For: 226 19th
Goals Against: 210 1st
GVT: 16 5th
Points: 97 5th
We don't get them all right, but in this case, VUKOTA chose wisely in calling for a Bruins' resurgence. Boston isn't quite at the top of the league in goal prevention, but at third (2.36 GA), it's conceivable they'll finish there by season's end. More surprising is yet another wild mood swing on offensethe B's are fifth in the NHL (2.99 GF) after their scoring collapse in 2009-10. What could be an even better Bruins incarnation than their first-seeded 2008-09 squad currently stands second in the NHL by the measure of Goals Versus Threshold. So are they a true Stanley Cup threat?
GM Peter Chiarelli has been busythe Bruins roster has seen massive turnover since the beginning of last season. Gone are players such as Steve Begin, Byron Bitz, Chuck Kobasew, Derek Morris, Matt Hunwick, Miroslav Satan, Vladimir Sobotka, Mark Stuart, Marco Sturm, Blake Wheeler and Dennis Wideman (not all of whom even started 2009-10 with the team), while new faces include Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg, Gregory Campbell, Nathan Horton, Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. In addition, the career of former keystone Marc Savard is in jeopardy after repeated concussion issues.
Bruins top forwards, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Shawn Thornton 10.7, Michael Ryder 9.1, Patrice Bergeron 8.0
Hits/60: Milan Lucic 11.8, Gregory Campbell 10.3*, Shawn Thornton 9.9
Blocked shots/60: Gregory Campbell 4.7*, Chris Kelly 2.2*, Patrice Bergeron 2.0
Takeaways/giveaway: Patrice Bergeron 2.9, Gregory Campbell 2.2*, Daniel Paille 1.9
Net penalties: Rich Peverley +0.6*, Nathan Horton +0.5*, David Krejci +0.5
Faceoffs: Patrice Bergeron 58.0%, Rich Peverley 54.2%*
Bruins top defensemen, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Zdeno Chara 7.2, Johnny Boychuk 6.4, Tomas Kaberle 5.2*
Hits/60: Johnny Boychuk 6.1, Dennis Seidenberg 5.5, Zdeno Chara 4.5
Blocked shots/60: Dennis Seidenberg 7.1, Andrew Ference 3.9, Johnny Boychuk 3.9
Takeaways/giveaway: Dennis Seidenberg 1.0, Zdeno Chara 0.4, Tomas Kaberle 0.3*
Net penalties: Zdeno Chara +0.0, Andrew Ference +0.0, Dennis Seidenberg +0.0, Johnny Boychuk +0.0
Minimum 40 games played
Bruins goaltenders, 2009-10 and 2010-11 stats
It's pretty amazing that the Bruins have had three Vezina Trophy caliber seasons in a row. Assuming that a healthy Tim Thomas (deservedly) captures the hardware againhe's threatening Dominik Hasek's all time save percentage recordit could have been a Vezina three-peat if Rask had more starts with which to build a case against Ryan Miller in 2009-10.
Overall save percentage .915 / .938
Even strength save percentage: .913 / .947
Power play save percentage: .919 / .885
Shorthanded save percentage: .944 / .955
Overall save percentage .931 / .917
Even strength save percentage: .937 / .925
Power play save percentage: .891 / .867
Shorthanded save percentage: .975 / .938
Picking up players from the Florida Panthers tends to have an unexpected side effect on your team: collecting lackluster shootout performers. The Bruins have a bunch of skaters with experience in extra frames, but unfortunately, they're all at a below-average 30% or less, other than one notable recently-acquired defenseman with a mere 12 career attempts under his belt. Conversely, the shootout is one of the few skills that second overall pick Tyler Seguin has shown a knack for in his rookie season. Between the pipes, Thomas and Rask have been above-average for their careers, though the Vezina favorite has struggled this season.
Best options, shooters with 10 or more career attempts
Tomas Kaberle: 41.7% (5 for 12)*
David Krejci: 30.0% (6 for 20)
Zdeno Chara: 30.0% (3 for 10)
Nathan Horton: 27.5% (11 for 40)
Best options, shooters with a limited track record
Tyler Seguin: 57.1% (4 for 7)
Tim Thomas: .717 career (124 for 173), .727 in 2009-10, .529 in 2010-11
Tuukka Rask: .684 career (26 for 38), .697 in 2009-10, .600 in 2010-11
THE BIG QUESTIONS FACING THE BRUINS
The quotes below followed the Bruins' 4-2 loss against the Islanders on March 11.
Big Question #1: What's been the net effect of the roster turnover of the last two seasons?
Head coach Claude Julien: "Kaberle's really brought some poise back there on the back-end that we've needed, and good puck moving. The other guys up front, Peverley with some good speed [and] quick hands, and Kelly's a real smart player, so they fit in well. It's unfortunate, because it really showed on that Western trip where they fit in well, and right now our team isn't playing as well as it should on a whole, and probably you don't get to see the benefits of that as much as we'd like to right now."
VUKOTA says: Tomas Kaberle was projected at 7.7 GVT; already at 7.8 GVT, the former Leaf will modestly exceed expectations. Meanwhile, ex-Sen Chris Kelly's 4.6 GVT has him right on pace for our 5.2 GVT projection. On the other side of the ledger, Rich Peverley's 1.4 GVT isn't going to rally to VUKOTA's 7.4 GVT expectations, after racking up a lousy plus-minus in Atlanta.
Timo says: In recent years, Chiarelli's been forced to move the likes of Phil Kessel and Marco Sturm due to the worst cap situation this side of Chicago, yet he's managed to come out with wonderfully deep lineup to complement the B's strength in goal. The Bruins are head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL at even strengtheven the powerhouse Canucks' 1.25 GF/GA at 5-on-5 pales in comparison to Boston's 1.42. Since the Lockout, only six teams have done as well or better: the 2005-06 Senators, 2005-06 Red Wings, 2006-07 Sabres, 2006-07 Red Wings, 2008-09 Bruins, 2009-10 Capitals. Unfortunately, none of those 113-plus point teams made the Stanley Cup Finals.
Answer: The best Bruins team in memory, a legit contender to at least make the Finals.
Big Question #2: What's wrong with the Bruins' special teams?
Head coach Claude Julien: "Listen, [the power play is] what we're working on. If I had the answer, it would have been fixed by now."
Tim Thomas: "As a goalie, the only thing I really contribute to is the penalty kill [as far as special teams success]. I think we've done a good job overall on the penalty kill this year. There's been a few games that are throwing the stats off. And then the last game, I think it was 5-on-3's that we were getting scored on, so that's a little different."
Timo says: While the Bruins are superior at even strength play, their special teams are surprisingly lacking. You'd figure that Boston would do better than 17th (81.9%) on the penalty kill, especially with excellent goaltending on the back-end. Perhaps even more disappointing, given seemingly strong personnel, is a 21st-ranked power play (16.4%). While the addition of Peverley as a second superior faceoff man could help somewhat, Kaberle immediately became the Bruins best offensive defenseman.
Answer: Kaberle should help the power play. Penalty killing is about effort, and young legs.
Big Question #3: Can the Boston win their first Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr?
Head coach Claude Julien: "We've really got to find our game again. We've been off our game. [It's] about being in synch and probably just moving the puck better and making things happen. We seem a little out of synch right nowthat's a simple way of saying it. We just don't seem to be clicking now and the plays aren't coming as easily they have been in the past."
Timo says: Think about the 1998-99 Sabres that Dominik Hasek carried to the Stanley Cup Finals. While Thomas is not Hasek, in a way for this season, he is. And the Bruins team in front of Thomas is better than the Sabres team that was in front of Hasek. Anyway, who's going to come out of the East, ahead of Boston? Pretty much every other contender has significant questions with injuries, inexperienced goaltending, chemistry and/or inconsistent play. The Bruins may be the least flawed contender in hockey's easier conference. So why not?
Answer: The Bruins have as good a chance to be lifting the hardware as any of the top teams in the NHL.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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