Six words you don’t hear often: The Bruins win in a shootout.
The Bruins have fought for a playoff spot most of the season and with 13 games remaining, the final playoff spot is theirs to lose. They have been hot lately with both the offense and defense clicking. Ottawa has also been streaking, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games creeping up to just five points behind Boston with a game in hand.
One Achilles’ heal has been the Bruins’ shootout woes, having gone 3-7 in them this season. Before beating Tampa Bay in a shootout Thursday night, Boston had lost seven straight shootouts. For any team fighting for their playoff lives, the extra point at stake is crucial and just going .500 in shootouts could very well be the difference between a disappointing season and the start of a possible playoff run.
Let’s analyze the Bruins’ shootout shot attempts over their recent drought and look at what they changed to get a win versus Tampa Bay.
7 Game Losing Streak
Before beating Tampa Bay on Thursday night, you would have to go back to the 21st game of the season in Columbus to find the Bruins last shootout win. Following that victory, the Bruins lost seven straight shootouts mainly due to their inability to score. Tuukka Rask isn’t to blame as he’s played above average (10 goals against on 37 shots for a 73% SV% compared to the league average of 68%) and has kept the Bruins in many shootouts giving them a fighting chance to win the contests. Looking at analytics can prove the Bruins took low percentage shots a majority of the time that cost them these games and several points.
It may seem like common sense, but to score you have to put the puck in the net and to put the puck into the net you have to hit the net. Hitting the net is one of the Bruins problems in the shootout. Over 27% of their attempts over the seven game losing streak missed the net entirely. Stepping up to the line, the Bruins’ players have just a 73% chance of hitting the net. The odds of them scoring on any given attempt is dramatically decreased. Compare this to the league average of only 16.5% of all attempts missing the net or hitting the post.
Statistics have proven, the closer you are to the net, the higher percentage chance you have of scoring. The Bruins shot from an average of 11.7 feet away from the goal line, more than a foot further than the league average of 10.3 feet.
The goalie’s high blocker side results in the highest scoring percentage of any location of the net. Almost half of all shots towards the goalie’s high blocker side result in a goal (49.1%). The Bruins shot percentages were closely distributed to the league averages, but resulted in dramatically lower scoring percentages. Explanations of this include bad luck, hot goaltending, and taking low percentage shots. While bad luck and hot goaltending could be valid, it is much more likely they were taking low percentage shots as I’ll explain further.
When the Bruins bring the puck deep into the crease, they tend to shoot low. While it is possible to deke the goalie and slip it behind his extended pad for a flashy goal, statistics prove it is much more effective to get the goalie down and flip the puck above their extended pad. Of the Bruins eight attempts that they carried the puck into the crease before releasing their shot, only one was lifted high in attempt to clear the goalie’s pad and outstretched arm. The remaining seven attempts from the Bruins were towards the goalie’s low glove, low blocker, and fivehole which resulted in the lowest scoring percentage of 26%, 23%, and 41% respectively.
The league average of all shots fired from the crease is 34% and is the highest of all distances (inside crease, between crease and hashmarks, and outside hashmarks) but the Bruins weren’t able to score on any of their eight attempts from that distance.
For some time, defensemen with heavy shots tend to come in and rip a slap shot from inside the blue line in attempt to blast it past the goalie. On the Bruins, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug have been guilty of this. Individually, slap shots (24%) and shots taken from outside the hashmarks (7%) both result in the lowest scoring percentage as slap shots are trackable from the shooter’s follow through and the goalie has more time to react and block the shot. Combining the two, doesn’t help the shooter’s case as it results in a 10% scoring chance. For your team’s sake, stop coming in and ripping slap shots aimlessly!
3/12 Win Vs. Tampa Bay
The Bruins looked like a completely different team in their shootout win vs. Tampa Bay. They scored on two of their three shot attempts and Rask was able to keep both of the Lightning’s shot attempts out of the net.
On the Bruins’ first attempt, Marchand had a small cut back move before firing a snapshot past Ben Bishop’s low blocker side. On the second attempt, David Pastrnak took the puck in deep and attempted to flip the puck high blocker side but with the puck on its side, misfired it wide. Brad Marchand fired the puck fivehole on Bishop to clinch the shootout for the Bruins.
While the Bruins didn’t take the highest percentage shots (in close and up high), they avoided the low percentage chances that had plagued them over the past seven shootouts. That, combined with a little luck in Jonathan Drouin hitting the crossbar and the puck bouncing out, helped the Bruins win and climb in the Eastern Conference.
Every point is critical moving forward and it is likely the Bruins will be in several close games down the stretch that need to be solved via a shootout. The Bruins will need to study last Thursday’s shootout win vs. Tampa Bay and replicate the game plan. This includes Rask playing strong between the pipes and the Bruins’ shooters avoiding low percentage shots.
NOTES: All Shootout data comes from my prior post: A Deep Look Into Advanced Shootout Statistics. When the “league average” is referenced, it refers to the league average over the past three NHL seasons.
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