At the end of each round of the NHL playoffs, we reconstructed the way the winners arrived where they were. So, we looked at how the Bruins and the Blues passed Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3, but before the Stanley Cup Final starts we will have to look more than this.
To really understand how these teams face each other, we will have to look at the playoffs as a whole and also at the regular season, and see who has the advantage in specific areas of the game.
The areas we will look at are 5 against 5, 5-against-5 defense, special teams and goaltending. After breaking down each area, we will give a team to the limit, and in the end we will find out which team is most likely to take the Stanley Cup home.
When looking for spaces between teams to analyze who has the advantage, this kind of result is … annoying.
The Bruins and Blues during the regular season and the playoffs have generated offenses in ways very similar to 5-vs-5, and at very similar rates. There is hardly a difference between them in any category. Therefore, in order to understand which team is better in balance, we need to understand what to evaluate more. The regular season is longer, so despite the bias of most of us that gravitates towards highly evaluative playoff statistics, the regular season usually gives us a better idea of what to expect for performance, so we should rate it slightly even more if it were some time ago now.
Altogether the Blues have produced a little higher probability of danger, a nice longer piece of the cycle, a little more goes to the slot, and a little more passes out of haste.
The Bruins have the advantage of attacking the race and getting screen shots of their shots, but on balance, does this contrast the advantage of the Blues in more categories, and more important in that?
It's nice to have screenshots on the shots, but it's better to shoot up close and create more pre-shot movements.
It is for a hair, but in an offensive way, the advantage comes to the Blues.
Similar to offensive metrics, defensively there is not a ton of separation between these two teams, especially in the regular season where they were both the top three defensive teams in the league.
However the advantage is a little clearer in this comparison, and you can see that in almost all the metrics the blue bar is higher than yellow, which means that the blues are giving up more than the Bruins.
In the regular season the Blues actually allowed fewer high-risk scoring opportunities and switched to slots compared to the Bruins, but while they gave up much more against better teams in the playoffs, the Bruins didn't. In fact, the Bruins strengthened even more defensively and cut a completed slot for the 60 slot off their average in the playoffs.
The defense domain of the Bruins also extends to the limitation of offensive teams, forcing opponents to attack in a straight line instead of going east-west, which makes things easier on Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins were the best team in the league to pass the screens in their area in the regular season, but they struggled a bit in the playoffs there. The focus for them in the post-season has been the network front, and it makes sense to prioritize there.
These two teams were the two best defensive teams in the playoffs, and it's a huge reason why they got to this point, but the Bruins are stronger in controlling what their opponents can do in their area. The limit here goes to Boston.
In the regular season the Bruins powerplay was good, but also lucky enough to get the results they were getting. Overall, their special teams were strong, but not a distinctive feature of their season.
In the playoffs, they were exciting. The control that the Bruins exercised on special teams punished every team they faced in these playoffs, and this should be very worrying for the Blues.
In the regular season the Azzurri were quite good at special teams. They weren't as good as the Bruins, particularly struggling a little more on the penalty, but they were net positive. In the playoffs that was not true, and they really struggled while their opponent had the advantage of man.
The big gap in the control of peak probabilities is something to keep an eye on. The Bruins generated too many chances out of the powerplay rush, which doesn't happen very often, and the Blues gave up a fair amount while they were in shorthand. This is a dangerous combination that plays heavily in favor of the Bruins.
If we looked only at the regular season, the Bruins would have the advantage but it wouldn't be huge. Looking at the playoffs, even if we rate them less than the previous 82 games, the advantage here is very favorable to Bruins. Maybe some of that magic fades in the long stretch that the Bruins have had after sweeping the Hurricanes, but is that a bet you'd make?
In the regular season, Jordan Binnington was superior to Rask. But in the playoffs, the two appear on the surface separated by a large margin, with Rask clearly better.
The difference between the two in the playoffs comes entirely from the internal slot or high-risk area, where Binnington was in the league's average and Rask was brilliant.
The extreme control of the Bruins on the high-risk area helped Rask reach that number, but also when the Bruins started the playoffs a little defensively, he was keeping them regularly in the game. . He has not faced almost all of Binnington's quality shots in the post-season, and this is the difference between the best and second defending team in these playoffs.
Logically it makes sense to give the advantage to Rask. He has a proven track record and he is the hot hand, but will his domination of the possibilities of high danger remain after a long period of dismissal? Much of the goaltending is about the attention and mentality you bring into a game, so that free time can easily launch a key in your game.
It's also the regular season to watch, and even though Rask was decent, he wasn't special. So how much of his playoff performance is just a hot strip that could end at any time?
I think it would be crazy not to give Rask the advantage here in the series, but the margin is thinner than most will represent it.
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WHO IS THE FAVORITE?
With the Bruins ahead of three out of four categories, there is not much suspense here. It's Boston and not just because they seem to be better on paper.
In these playoffs, for whatever reason, the defense reigned supreme. Defensive-minded islanders took penguins offensively prone. The defensive juggernaut that is the Bruins eliminated the Maple Leafs offensive power in the first round. Carolina closed Washington while the Blues took sharks. The defense is winning.
With this in mind, with the two best defensive teams in the playoffs being the last two teams left, you have to think that the best defensive team will be the one that will eventually win, and this is the Boston Bruins.