In-season update: Boston Bruins

We are now approximately 20 games into the 2017/18 NHL season and one thing remains truer than ever: puck movement in today’s game is critical.  We kick off this year’s puck moving defensemen analyses with my current hometown – Boston.

2017/18 Season: Charlie McAvoy is off to a great start

12NOV2017 -- bruins update

A couple things to note from the above chart:

  1. We only have ~20 games worth of data (and for some players, even less). As a result, the models have higher variance – both in terms of puck movement factor (PMF) and quality of competition they face (QoC). Still, the output provides a strong “ballpark” for their performance to date.
  2. As a reminder, our PMF metric measures a defenseman’s ability to drive possession and help their players generate scoring chances. The numbers cannot be directly compared with each other: quality of competition that they face needs to be considered…(take us to point 3).
  3. We layer in QoC on the Y-Axis. This indicates the level of competition a player faces and is a function of opponent corsi %, goals and primary assists per 60, and TOI per gp, weighted by the time they face each opposing forward. I wouldn’t conclude from the above chart that Carlo or McAvoy certainly play tougher minutes than Krug. Their QoC scores are in the same range. But you can conclude that Chara is deployed against toughest opposition whereas Kevin Miller and O’Gara are the third pairing who are “sheltered” by the coaching staff.

Rapid Fire Observations

+ Charlie McAvoy (PMF + 1.87) is having a tremendous season. He spends most of his time on the top pairing with Chara and has been excellent at driving possession, moving the puck from the d-zone, and making life easier for the forwards he plays with, despite facing above average competition (often paired with Chara on top pairing).

Torrey Krug (PMF +3.66) has the strongest puck movement factor score among all Bruins defensemen. This should come as little surprise: Krug is a prototypical, modern-day defenseman who displays excellent puck skills, strong vision, and top notch skating ability.  He does play 5v5 on the second pairing and is usually shielded from facing the top opposing lines.

Brandon Carlo (PMF -3.42) has struggled as a puck mover while playing 2nd pairing minutes.

Zdeno Chara (PMF -1.72) hasn’t been top notch, but has still performed at a respectable level – especially considering he plays the toughest minutes for the Bruins. At age 40, the Bruins need to be pleased with Chara’s defensive game – but his ability as a puck mover is not what it once was. This summer, we looked at Chara’s decline:

12NOV2017 -- zdeno chara

Verdict

Through 16 games, the Bruins boast a 6-6-4 record and sit 14th out of 16 in the East. While 2017/18 may not be their year, the Bruins are a young, ascending team in transition – with many reasons for optimism:

+ Charlie McAvoy has been impressive through 16 games for the Bruins.

+ Torrey Krug continues to show he’s an excellent defenseman, suited for today’s fast paced game.

+ Marchard – Bergeron – Pastrnak remain one of the most dangerous top lines in the leagues.

As Chara needs retirement, the Bruins need a new “face” for their d-corps. If McAvoy continues to develop, he just might be that guy.


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