What’s Different About This Year

Frisbetarian

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You may even have been right at the time of posting! The Bruins we saw starting in October came out of nowhere, even to a lot of the experienced puck heads around here.
I’m not sure if there will be any interest in this thread, but I’d love to get your collective thoughts on what changed this year for the Bruins. There is a wealth of hockey knowledge in this forum, and it would be interesting to hear what schematic changes you guys think the team made that led to their success thus far this season. Passing, entries, exits, shooting, etc., etc.
 

LogansDad

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I am not nearly as smart as others here, but one of the things that I think is different this year is that the team is being encourage to constantly be putting pressure on the other team. Whether it's a winger leaving the defensive zone as soon as it looks like they might regain possession, or a defenseman pinching in the offensive zone to keep the puck alive, the team is all on the same page. It isn't that they didn't do these things in the past, it's just that they were expected to do them, for lack of a better word I can come up with, "responsibly". This year, guys are being encouraged to be aggressive at all times, and not having to worry so much about getting benched for leaving the zone early or something like that, and to do it ALL THE TIME. It leads to mistakes, but, at least to this point, leads to the opponents making a lot more mistakes.

But again, that is just my eye test, I don't really have stats or anything to back it up.
 

Ferm Sheller

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In no order, here are some biggies:

1. New HC (I think they became tight under Cassidy and Cassidy wore out his welcome)
2. Krecji's back
3. Ullmark has stood on his head
4. Lindholm has been fully integrated (don't underestimate what he's done for this defense)
5. Zacha's been a big step up from Haula
 

Jordu

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One simple stat that jumps out at me is the Bruins shot percentage this season is 11.3. Last season it was 8.5.

Eye test only: They’ve kept their defensive structure but the addition of Lindholm at 20 minutes a game means they’re getting the puck up and out quicker and have more speed through the neutral zone — and more good O zone entries — than they did last season. I’ve got no data to back that up.

Another easy-to-see change is the emphasis on a five-man cycle in the offensive zone. D men are much less hesitant not only to pinch but get into the slot, and the forward corps has been conscientious about rotating back quickly.
 

PedroSpecialK

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Tactically, beyond Montgomery's systemic changes like encouraging defensemen to get forward, and for forwards to chase through behind the net on the forecheck, it seems like the players are not being drilled to make hard stops. Net front in the offensive zone, defensively, on the boards during the breakout - everywhere Cassidy's system featured targeting specific territory, that's kind of gone, to my eyes at least. The result is more turnovers at times, but obviously the net effect has been really positive given the mix of talent in the group.
 

The Mort Report

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It also helps that the team's 1C and 2C make a combined 3.5 mil, allowing the team to spend elsewhere. If they hit the market looking for the best deals, they'd make, what, 12+ combined? That's a couple good players off the roster if the B's paid market
 

Frisbetarian

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These are all tremendous! Please keep them coming. I need distractions

I’m in kinda golden handcuffs right now. I had Achilles tendon surgery 2 weeks ago and am laid up. But I’m laid up in southwest Mexico, on the most beautiful beach in Banderas Bay, watching the sun set over the Pacific sipping a tequila as my gummy kicks in.

And thinking about hockey.
 

Ferm Sheller

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These are all tremendous! Please keep them coming. I need distractions

I’m in kinda golden handcuffs right now. I had Achilles tendon surgery 2 weeks ago and am laid up. But I’m laid up in southwest Mexico, on the most beautiful beach in Banderas Bay, watching the sun set over the Pacific sipping a tequila as my gummy kicks in.

And thinking about hockey.
Best humblebrag in the history of humblebrags! :) Get well soon!
 

Foxy42

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My eye test likes Zacha more than Haula, but it would be great to hear an educated view on this.
 

InstaFace

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These are all tremendous! Please keep them coming. I need distractions

I’m in kinda golden handcuffs right now. I had Achilles tendon surgery 2 weeks ago and am laid up. But I’m laid up in southwest Mexico, on the most beautiful beach in Banderas Bay, watching the sun set over the Pacific sipping a tequila as my gummy kicks in.

And thinking about hockey.
Say hi to Red and Andy down the road at Zihuatenejo!

I'm not qualified to answer your question myself, but I'm enjoying the other responses too, so thanks for prompting them.
 

MiracleOfO2704

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Two things stick out to me: center depth and coaching.

To the latter, lots of people have pointed out the obvious factors. Both statistically (HDCF/HDSF are both way up this year, likely the cause for the near 3% rise in shot percentage) and interpersonally (besides DeBrusk, don’t forget that Krejci basically said he didn’t understand why he never got a good run with Pastrnak), Monty seems to be able to get more out of a team that was cannon fodder last year. But part of that comes from that aforementioned depth.

Last year, the Bruins replaced Krejci with Erik Haula, a nice enough guy who’s best deployed in the middle of a 3rd or 4th line. If the Bruins could have, they likely would’ve slotted him there and been done with it. Unfortunately, Haula was one of 3-4 guys for whom you could say the exact same thing (Frederic, Nosek, Haula, and bafflingly, Coyle). So they had 4-5 good wingers, but only one center to reliably feed them. But between Krejci’s return and trading for Zacha, you now have 5, maybe 6 NHL centres slotted into place perfectly. Butch 100% didn’t have that at his disposal last year.

As easy as it would be to include the rise of Ullmark, I don’t only because I remember reading that the people that believe in them said his underlying metrics were way better than his counting stats due to Buffalo being Buffalo.
 

wiffleballhero

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Because of all of these things posted already, the Bruins are also now just such an incredibly hard team to come back against, get up on, or close out in the third. Even when teams really play well for 40 minutes against the Bruins, at some point they just can't keep up and the Bs get two more points.
 

RedOctober3829

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In addition to the other responses, I would also think that a full season of Hampus Lindholm and the improvement of Derek Forbort has to factor in somewhere. Both are having tremendous seasons filling their specific roles. Forbort has been a stalwart on the PK and Lindholm has given the team a 1B to McAvoy’s 1A.
 

riveraulwick

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One thing that jumps out to me about this team,and is common trait of most powerhouse hockey teams, is leadership.

There is an incredibly high standard for accountability both on and off the ice. It obviously starts with Bergy but it includes having Kreji back and high energy characters like Foligno. It has also helped develop star players like McAvoy and Pasta to be leaders as well as studs.

I personally feel this type of atmosphere is most apparent in the play of young players on a team that can naturally be uneven in their effort and execution as they adjust to the incredibly fast and demanding NHL level of play. Clifton, Frederick, Debrusk, and Nosek have all taken huge strides in their games. Effort, both on and off the ice, is contagious.

It's a team culture and it's been an absolute joy to experience this year.
 

Dahabenzapple2

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In addition to the above with the biggest difference being the defense being more forceful in the offensive zone

Carlo is better / consistent and more physical / he’s benefitted from the aggressive approach
Pastrnak is even better and more aggressive / sure lots of turnovers but he’s a grinder as well as being the second best goal scorer in hockey
Bergeron, Marchand & Krejci still showing no decline due to age that I can see
DeBrusk with Bergeron & Marchand accentuates his skills and hides his straight ahead limitations
Lindholm is almost as good as McAvoy
Goalie tandem understood with no Rask distraction. Swayman knows his role and has been a strong number 2
 

Frisbetarian

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Excellent responses. Thanks. I’ll post in more depth later (I’m off to a small mtn village to find homemade raicilla this morning).

But before I leave, I have a few questions. Specifically, what changes has the coaching staff made strategically that have contributed to their success? For example, the team is much more efficient offensively this season. What are they doing differently, if anything, that has caused this? Is it their shot location or volume? Types of shot attempts (more off the rush or off the cycle)? A different passing scheme in the OZ? Are they exiting their own and and entering the Oz differently? Or is it puck luck and we can expect to see regression to the mean?

You get the idea. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read thus far, and agree with pretty much all of it. But I think it would be interesting to get some detailed strategy talk in here, if there’s any interest. I know the knowledge is there.
 

joe dokes

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Excellent responses. Thanks. I’ll post in more depth later (I’m off to a small mtn village to find homemade raicilla this morning).

But before I leave, I have a few questions. Specifically, what changes has the coaching staff made strategically that have contributed to their success? For example, the team is much more efficient offensively this season. What are they doing differently, if anything, that has caused this? Is it their shot location or volume? Types of shot attempts (more off the rush or off the cycle)? A different passing scheme in the OZ? Are they exiting their own and and entering the Oz differently? Or is it puck luck that we can expect to see regression to the mean?

You get the idea. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read thus far, and agree with pretty much all of it. But I think it would be interesting to get some detailed strategy talk in here, if there’s any interest. I know the knowledge is there.
Not spotted on my own, but cued by analysts (and probably some here)......Spending much more time below the circles on offense. Even defensemen, when they get the ice to go into the o-zone, arent just dumping it in when they reach some invisible line of "too far," they are continuing to carry it down low. All of them do it, not just the "offensive" d-men.

Bigger picture--perhaps related to the relatively low costs of 37 and 46 -- they just have a boatload of talented players. And all the players, regardless of their "talents," are playing near the top end of whatever range of expectations there might have been going into the season.
 

Cotillion

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I swear yesterday at one point Lindholm was up on the forecheck by himself. I mean all the way up and it wasn’t because he got caught back behind the goallones because of a sudden turnover.

I still can’t tell if I was imagining it or not. But the D are definitely a ton more aggressive it seems in cycling down and staying down below the goal line if that is how the play is flowing, and it seems last year they would cycle down but be looking to get back out to the blue line instantly.
 

SoxVindaloo

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Not spotted on my own, but cued by analysts (and probably some here)......Spending much more time below the circles on offense. Even defensemen, when they get the ice to go into the o-zone, arent just dumping it in when they reach some invisible line of "too far," they are continuing to carry it down low. All of them do it, not just the "offensive" d-men.
Great posts and great thread already. I think a prime example of this new offensive philosophy was the goal that tied the Seattle game 5-5. Brendan Carlo spotted open ice near the right circle and just went and parked himself there. He got an excellent pass from Lindholm and scored a forward’s goal. I don’t think he would have been in that position a year ago.
 
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astrozombie

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In no order, here are some biggies:

1. New HC (I think they became tight under Cassidy and Cassidy wore out his welcome)
2. Krecji's back
3. Ullmark has stood on his head
4. Lindholm has been fully integrated (don't underestimate what he's done for this defense)
5. Zacha's been a big step up from Haula
Agree with all of this and I will admit I was wrong on Cassidy. I liked him and didn't think he was the issue, but the team this year under Monty has been totally different. There is a combination of accountability but also joy playing this year that was lacking under Cassidy, I suspect because people were tight. The last few years, it seemed like there was an over-reliance on the Perfection Line to put on a cape and save the day when things went south. This year Monty's system seems to open everyone up and have everyone contribute which lessens the burden on the top. I don't have NESN and I am still bitter about the Mitchell signing (what an unforced error), but this team has been fun to watch all year.
 

Over Guapo Grande

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I keep thinking back to some pre-season discussions/articles, which all emphasized the quality of looks that Montgomery wanted, rather than the quantity of them . I came across this, which, to me, seems to indicate that they are constantly searching the great vs good shot(https://hockeyviz.com/fixedImg/shotRatesByScore/2223/BOS/):

61658

That is a lot of red in really good areas. Also, they only have 116 minutes down 2+ all year- or less time than they have been up 3+ by almost 2 periods.
 

Frisbetarian

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I'm truly enjoying this thread and all these wonderful responses. To recap what we have thus far, this year's team is:

- More aggressive overall offensively, but also responsible in their attacking zone actions.
- Better coached. Looser team.
- Outstanding goaltending.
- Krejci return.
- Zacha upgrade from Haula
- Full season of Lindholm who is an exceptional puck mover.
- Related to above, but team is entering the OZ with control more often.
- Defense more involved in the OZ, allowing forwards to chase behind the net on the forecheck.
- Deep roster made possible because of low cost #1 and #2 centers.
- More talented team overall with excellent center depth.
- Shooting percentage way up because team is taking more shots from the slot and inner slot. (editors note - this is despite fewer shot attempts overall).
- Big improvements from Forbort and Foligno.
- Excellent player leadership with accountability for players. Team culture.
- Carlo back to the player he was before the concussions.
- Pastrnak scoring.
- 1st and 2nd line configurations.
- Defensemen much more aggressive offensively, including cycling down low.
- More contributions from all 4 lines.

I hope I didn't miss anything, and apologize if I did.

What else do you guys have for me? What are they doing differently on defense? The Bruins have remained a top level team in suppressing opposition offense, despite being more aggressive offensively. How are they managing to to this?
Also, how would you rank the above in terms of importance?

I bet he tore his Achilles surfing epic waves, too.
¡Jajaja! After surfing epic waves in San Pancho, ripping jungle trail on a mtn bike in Sayulita, and taking out my SUP when the entire bay was closed because of huge swells, I tore my Achilles...

playing frisbee :rolleyes:
 

Jordu

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Fluto did a piece on Mike Reilly in Providence in the Jan. 27 Athletic and I was struck by a quote from Reilly. He said last season “some games you’d get the puck and you’d be kind of nervous, kind of anxious, ‘I’ve got to get this thing right off my stick.’ Just kind of freaking out a little bit. This year, the games I played, I didn’t feel that. I felt like Monty’s system, he lets guys play to their strengths. That’s what I was excited for.”

Cassidy‘s system emphasized zone defense and quick transition. Montgomery‘s system does the same, but Reilly’s quote suggest to me that Montgomery lets players be creative in making transitions, while Cassidy wanted transitions done the coach’s way. If there is one recurrent theme in quotes from the players about Montgomery it’s “he lets us be creative.”

To my fan’s eye, the defensive system is pretty much the same. The weak side D man needs to be in front of the net. The center need to be low (below the dots) and can go to the back wall to contest puck possession but has to get above in hurry if that’s where the puck goes. The forwards are responsible for the dots to the blue line.

The system works better this year not only because of Lindholm, McAvoy and Gryz, who are great puck movers, but because Carlo and Forbort and Clifton seem less afraid to create their own transitions given what is in front of them.
 

The Napkin

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Thanks for linking that article, that gets to the point I've been trying to figure out how to say in my head.
And yes, it involves me beating the DeBrusk drum (at least partially) again because he's the perfect example. At one point last year I said Cassidy would rather lose 2-1 than win 6-5 and I'm still not sure I was wrong. I feel like under Cassidy they were afraid to try to make plays because any time it didn't work they were at rist of being dropped down lines and/or benched and as a result they played timid. Timid hockey is bad hockey. I feel like this year they're not afraid of being punished for making a "mistake" and as a result are playing much freer and more aggressive. The Carlo goal SoxVindaloo mentioned above is a perfect example.
 

Spelunker

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I'm truly enjoying this thread and all these wonderful responses. To recap what we have thus far, this year's team is:

- More aggressive overall offensively, but also responsible in their attacking zone actions.
- Better coached. Looser team.
- Outstanding goaltending.
- Krejci return.
- Zacha upgrade from Haula
- Full season of Lindholm who is an exceptional puck mover.
- Related to above, but team is entering the OZ with control more often.
- Defense more involved in the OZ, allowing forwards to chase behind the net on the forecheck.
- Deep roster made possible because of low cost #1 and #2 centers.
- More talented team overall with excellent center depth.
- Shooting percentage way up because team is taking more shots from the slot and inner slot. (editors note - this is despite fewer shot attempts overall).
- Big improvements from Forbort and Foligno.
- Excellent player leadership with accountability for players. Team culture.
- Carlo back to the player he was before the concussions.
- Pastrnak scoring.
- 1st and 2nd line configurations.
- Defensemen much more aggressive offensively, including cycling down low.
- More contributions from all 4 lines.

I hope I didn't miss anything, and apologize if I did.

What else do you guys have for me? What are they doing differently on defense? The Bruins have remained a top level team in suppressing opposition offense, despite being more aggressive offensively. How are they managing to to this?
Also, how would you rank the above in terms of importance?



¡Jajaja! After surfing epic waves in San Pancho, ripping jungle trail on a mtn bike in Sayulita, and taking out my SUP when the entire bay was closed because of huge swells, I tore my Achilles...

playing frisbee :rolleyes:
I'm headed to Kauai on Wednesday, and in my brief time there I hope to live 10% as well as you do on one leg.
 

cshea

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I think the main difference is they're getting into the high danger areas more frequently. They've traded some shots for shot quality. Last year, at 5x5, they averated 36.44 shots per 60 minutes, 2nd highest in the league. This year, that has dipped to 32.05 shots per 60, but their scoring and high danger chances are up. Last year scoring chances were 28.75/60, this year 31.04/60. Same goes for high danger chances, 12.86/60 this year, way up from 8.66 last year.

They've done all this without sacrificing on the defensive end, they're just as stingy as they were under Cassidy. Add in Vezina caliber goaltending, and here we are.
 

Frisbetarian

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Awesome posts @Jordu and @The Napkin! I particularly like your comments on the B's defensive system, and why it "works" this year, @Jordu

I think the overall responses in this thread are spot on, but want to talk for a moment about what many of you are seeing as more creativity from the players this year, and especially the defensemen. I think Butch was an excellent coach. I had a good relationship with him, and pretty much all positive interactions. He was a confident coach who was very much invested in his system, and loathe to change. Unfortunately, imo, this led to some predictability on the part of the Bruins in things like leaving their own end. My thoughts on this are somewhat borne out by the fact that the Bruins DZ turnover percentage is actually lower this year, even with the added "creativity" from the players. OZ and NZ turnover rates are similar, as well, again despite "freeer and more aggressive" play (@The Napkin). I also, and I think I've mentioned this previously, saw Butch coached teams change their aggressiveness in the OZ over the years he coached. He was brought in in large part because Claude's teams had become very conservative in the OZ, more concerned with keeping possession than getting a good chance. The result was a team that took tons of shots, but a very low percentage from the slot area. Butch changed this when he took over, and the results were spectacular. But over the years, Butch became very conservative in the OZ, as well, to the point that during his last 2 seasons the Bruins were near the bottom of the league in percentage of their shot attempts from down low, same as Claude's last 2 seasons. I wonder if this is something that happens with many coaches, a gradual progression to a "safer," more conservative offense. This actually might be a fun project for someone, but maybe my idea of fun (playing with numbers gives me a very similar high as riding a wave or skiing backcountry - I'm a weird guy) is different :cool:


I'm headed to Kauai on Wednesday, and in my brief time there I hope to live 10% as well as you do on one leg
Seriously? I had a home there for many years and know the island well. I have a write up (long and meandering) of "local boy" things to see and do on the island. If you want it, message me. You are going to love Kauai!!
 
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Frisbetarian

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I think the main difference is they're getting into the high danger areas more frequently. They've traded some shots for shot quality. Last year, at 5x5, they averated 36.44 shots per 60 minutes, 2nd highest in the league. This year, that has dipped to 32.05 shots per 60, but their scoring and high danger chances are up. Last year scoring chances were 28.75/60, this year 31.04/60. Same goes for high danger chances, 12.86/60 this year, way up from 8.66 last year.

They've done all this without sacrificing on the defensive end, they're just as stingy as they were under Cassidy. Add in Vezina caliber goaltending, and here we are.
Missed this as I was responding above (it turns out that writing in English is more difficult/time consuming after spending 6 months in Mexico speaking mainly Spanish). This post is spot on!

But how strategically are they doing this, getting these shots? Are they bringing the puck into the OZ differently? Did their passing in the OZ change? Obviously these questions are for the board and not just for @cshea

Great stuff!
 

cshea

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My eye test thinks they generate more off the rush and there's less of the cycle game in the Ozone. Like the wingers are encouraged to take it wide and try to jam a pass into the slot more often than in the past. In the past it felt like unless there was a clear passing lane they were encouraged to either take a low percentage shot from the wing or pull it down and try to cycle.

Additionally, when they do cycle, I feel like there's a lot more movement, particularly with the defensemen. If felt like under Cassidy the defensemen didn't always have the greenlight to move down to open ice. So when the Bruins cycled, a lot of it ended up in a low to high pass where a defenseman would get hte puck near the blue line and then either send it back down along the boards and try again or move laterally and try a low percentage shot (in the hopes of tips/rebounds/chaos). Feels like under Monty the defensemn move down to the half boards quite a bit more and sometimes the "top" of the Ozone, even at 5x5, is an umbrella.
 

Frisbetarian

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My eye test thinks they generate more off the rush and there's less of the cycle game in the Ozone. Like the wingers are encouraged to take it wide and try to jam a pass into the slot more often than in the past. In the past it felt like unless there was a clear passing lane they were encouraged to either take a low percentage shot from the wing or pull it down and try to cycle.

Additionally, when they do cycle, I feel like there's a lot more movement, particularly with the defensemen. If felt like under Cassidy the defensemen didn't always have the greenlight to move down to open ice. So when the Bruins cycled, a lot of it ended up in a low to high pass where a defenseman would get hte puck near the blue line and then either send it back down along the boards and try again or move laterally and try a low percentage shot (in the hopes of tips/rebounds/chaos). Feels like under Monty the defensemn move down to the half boards quite a bit more and sometimes the "top" of the Ozone, even at 5x5, is an umbrella.
Outstanding observations, and the data backs you up for the most part. I wish I could share more.

As a frisbetarian would.
Sad but true.
 

veritas

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I agree with everyone's observations that they're more fluid and unpredictable, especially in the offensive zone, and especially the defensemen. I'm curious how much of this is specifically being coached, and how much of it is human nature. A result of having been "stuck" in some of the same patterns and ways of thinking having had the same coaching system for so long, regardless of who the coach was. There are probably very good reasons NHL coaches have short shelf lives. I'm assuming it's a combination of both, there do seem to be some real, intentional differences in how they are playing this year.

I also think it's generally been understated how good they were last season.
 

burstnbloom

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This is a fun thread. Thanks for starting it @Frisbetarian

All good stuff in here. To me the change in offensive strategy is really obvious when you watch them. They funnel to the net a lot more rather than inefficiently regrouping at the blue line with point shots. They are opting for more dangerous shot assist plays rather than the low danger shot assist stuff you saw the last few seasons. It actually looks kind of similar to what Cassidy did when he first took over and shook up Bergeron's deployment.

I also think their breakout and transition game is far more urgent. They prioritize the blue line in the d zone and suppress entries at a really high rate and they are excellent at retrieving dump ins (except you Forbort). Then they swing the puck out by either taking the ice they have or moving it to the sinking center quickly and into the Neutral zone. Their transition game this year is so fun to watch. No more D to D passes in the D zone when the forecheckers are at the blue line.

Also - either Linus and Swayman are the greatest goalies in history or some kind of chance suppression tweak to the d zone coverage is really limiting the space opponents can get in the dzone. I think both goalies have been excellent at times but I'm not sure the public models are giving the bruins defense enough credit.

Tl:DR they prioritize the blue line in the dzone higher this year and focus on their transition play much more aggressively and then when they dont score on the rush, they look for more efficient (and more dangerous) offensive chances.

It's so much more fun to watch.
 

locknload

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While the reasons for why could be many, the biggest change I see is a focus on generating not just shots, but high scoring probability shots. Way less of those frustrating games where you outshoot an opponent by 2-1 margin but don't score. Focus instead of getting the puck to the high danger areas of the ice and generating high quality goal scoring opportunities.
 

Jordu

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But over the years, Butch became very conservative in the OZ, as well, to the point that during his last 2 seasons the Bruins were near the bottom of the league in percentage of their shot attempts from down low, same as Claude's last 2 seasons. I wonder if this is something that happens with many coaches, a gradual progression to a "safer," more conservative offense.
I don’t why I remember this but I do. I guess it made a big impression on me at the time.

The Bruins beat the Lightning 6-5 in Game 2 of the ECF in 2011. In the post-game press conference, Guy Boucher said, “Well, to be honest with you, it was a pond hockey game tonight, period. When you play a pond hockey game, there's a chance it won't turn your way. So it's your breakaway, my breakaway, your two-on-ones, my two-on-one. It might be exciting for the fans, but from the team's perspective and standpoint, it's not how we've played. … But I said it all year long, we don't want to win those games, because it gives you a false sense of having accomplished something when your process wasn't good.”

We don’t want to win those games. What an odd thing for a coach to say. I suppose for many coaches in any sport, how well the system is executed in a game is the primary way they judge their team’s performance. Cassidy is an excellent hockey mind, but maybe he just got too strict about his system.
 

PedroSpecialK

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My eye test thinks they generate more off the rush and there's less of the cycle game in the Ozone. Like the wingers are encouraged to take it wide and try to jam a pass into the slot more often than in the past. In the past it felt like unless there was a clear passing lane they were encouraged to either take a low percentage shot from the wing or pull it down and try to cycle.

Additionally, when they do cycle, I feel like there's a lot more movement, particularly with the defensemen. If felt like under Cassidy the defensemen didn't always have the greenlight to move down to open ice. So when the Bruins cycled, a lot of it ended up in a low to high pass where a defenseman would get hte puck near the blue line and then either send it back down along the boards and try again or move laterally and try a low percentage shot (in the hopes of tips/rebounds/chaos). Feels like under Monty the defensemn move down to the half boards quite a bit more and sometimes the "top" of the Ozone, even at 5x5, is an umbrella.
Building on this a bit - I think another benefit of the high-risk, high-reward in-zone play is as the game goes on and defenders tire, pressure situations can lead to creating that extra bit of space or individual mistake to allow them to capitalize. Further, they're in positions where they can roll four lines and never really have to have forwards logging crazy minutes. Pastrnak, their forward TOI leader (19:47 ATOI), is 37th among NHL forwards in ATOI. He's exceeded 22 minutes in a game five times this year, Bergeron (17:47) only twice.

They're an outstanding team in all periods, but particularly holding leads and getting back into games in the third period - I imagine that playing style plays some part in that, and their TOI strategy leaves them with a ton of gas in the tank relative to other teams at the end of games.
 

Frisbetarian

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Thanks to all for indulging me. I am really enjoying this thread.

The comments and ideas here show exactly what I thought they would, an incredible knowledge of the game. I think if I were a younger man and interested in going back to work in sports analytics, I would attempt to do something similar on a larger scale; a wisdom of crowds type of survey like Tango did with baseball a few years ago. I feel this could provide valuable information, and perhaps help uncover things missed in day to day analysis.

It appears that perhaps the most important change per the consensus here is that they are far more selective in their shot locations and types. the data definitely bears this out. They also, per @PedroSpecialK's post above, have outstanding depth, a testament to some excellent cap management and contract work.

They are opting for more dangerous shot assist plays rather than the low danger shot assist stuff you saw the last few seasons. It actually looks kind of similar to what Cassidy did when he first took over and shook up Bergeron's deployment.
I agree 100%, and remember making this point in a pro meeting by using an example like, imagine I have the puck with 2 passing options. I can pass to Bonz up high, and I have a 90% chance of completing that pass, but Bonz has only a 1% chance of scoring. Or I can pass it to Adam, where I only have a 40% chance of completing the pass, but he has a 20% chance of scoring. Simplistic, but it got the point across.


I also think their breakout and transition game is far more urgent. They prioritize the blue line in the d zone and suppress entries at a really high rate and they are excellent at retrieving dump ins (except you Forbort). Then they swing the puck out by either taking the ice they have or moving it to the sinking center quickly and into the Neutral zone. Their transition game this year is so fun to watch. No more D to D passes in the D zone when the forecheckers are at the blue line.
I agree with this, as well, and would add that the transition game last year had become predictable, IMO, and it led to many DZ and NZ turnovers.

Please, keep the observations coming.
 

IdiotKicker

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I think giving the D more freedom to get up-ice is also helping even amongst the guys you wouldn't think it would. Carlo was below the right face-off dot and getting near the crease when he scored the tying goal against SEA earlier this week. Then last night, he ends up in a similar spot in an odd-man rush against EDM. I have to think that kind of stuff wears on an opposing team both mentally and physically, in terms of having to track bodies they wouldn't have had to otherwise. And I'll single out Carlo, because for the past couple years, I thought he was often in the right place when on the PK but struggled to clear his own zone, but something has clicked with him this year in terms of his puck-handling and he's even playing more confidently in those situations as well when trying to get the puck out of the zone in shorthanded situations.

I mean, just on offense, here are the guys having career years:

Lindholm
Zacha
Pastrnak
McAvoy
DeBrusk
Krejci (On pace to top 70 points for only the 3rd time in his career)
Frederic

Now, I think part of the reason why they're able to be so dynamic in the offensive zone is because they've gotten some really good help from their goaltenders as well. I don't have any data on this, but it seems like they are giving up a higher number of odd-man rushes the opposite way than in years-past, but they have been bailed out in the vast majority of them. So I don't think what they're doing is costless, but they've been able to avoid getting hit too heavily on the defensive end because Ullmark and Swayman have been so sound in those situations.

The other piece that is interesting to me in terms of the transition game are the locations and speed of the recipients that they're making their second breakout pass to. I'm seeing a lot more stuff up the seams and behind the first wave of defenders to a player already in motion horizontally across the opposing blue line. Puck moves between the D-men in our zone, then we hit a guy near top speed who is a few steps ahead of the opposing blue line who can get into the offensive zone with momentum and force plays with speed. It helps to have guys like Lindholm and McAvoy who can make those passes, but we're getting those entries with more speed and forcing the opposing team to hand-off responsibilities a lot more in those situations, as opposed to the relatively stagnant breakouts that we had the last couple years. Again, it's just relentless in terms of the mental and physical work required by an opposing defense to stay on top of this stuff regularly, and I think it wears them down and is a good reason why the Bs may be so strong in the 3rd period as well.
 

j44thor

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I'm in agreement with everything that has been said but the one thing I can't get over is the improvement from Ullmark. Not saying he is a primary reason but I find it incredible that he is .20 over his save % the last couple years and I believe he is #1 overall in saves above expected. Is it simply getting more comfortable in Boston? Sway has virtually the same stats this year and last so I don't think the system has made Ullmark that much better, is it Essensa magic? Really curious what is leading to his career year. To me he looked a bit slower last year and was more reactive vs being more Rask like in his movement this year but that is purely the eyeball test so completely subjective and probably wrong.
 

cshea

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Statistically the biggest difference is high danger save percentage. Last season, in all situations, Ullmark had a .824 high danger save percentage, 22nd among goalies who played 1000+ minutes. This season that has improved to .865, 4th among goalies with 1000+ minutes behind Sansonov, Swayman and Kochetkov (who has only played 19 games). Swayman's high danger turnaround has been far more drastic, going from .802 last year to .881 this year.

I don't know enough about the technical points of the position to identify exactly what Ullmark and Swayman are doing different. All I would do is tip my hat to Goalie Bob. There's a reason he's been here forever and we never usually have goalie problems. Last year an "average" season was a bad one by previous standards set.
 

The Mort Report

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I'm in agreement with everything that has been said but the one thing I can't get over is the improvement from Ullmark. Not saying he is a primary reason but I find it incredible that he is .20 over his save % the last couple years and I believe he is #1 overall in saves above expected. Is it simply getting more comfortable in Boston? Sway has virtually the same stats this year and last so I don't think the system has made Ullmark that much better, is it Essensa magic? Really curious what is leading to his career year. To me he looked a bit slower last year and was more reactive vs being more Rask like in his movement this year but that is purely the eyeball test so completely subjective and probably wrong.
He's been awesome, and it also adds to my point of getting Bergy and Krejci so cheap was so important. There was some discussion in the offseason about what contract(s) we should deal in order to sign them if the team needed to free up money. Many people(myself included) had dumping his contract as option 1. Thank god we didn't need to go that route
 

Haunted

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The difference is obvious: they're winning!




Seriously, this thread has been an amazing read. I have followed the team this year but have been able to watch - maybe - 1-2 games all season, so reading here has been very informative to me. Sure, I can see the results and see the stats and everything, but that doesn't always tell the whole story in a game like hockey.
 

Frisbetarian

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The other piece that is interesting to me in terms of the transition game are the locations and speed of the recipients that they're making their second breakout pass to. I'm seeing a lot more stuff up the seams and behind the first wave of defenders to a player already in motion horizontally across the opposing blue line. Puck moves between the D-men in our zone, then we hit a guy near top speed who is a few steps ahead of the opposing blue line who can get into the offensive zone with momentum and force plays with speed. It helps to have guys like Lindholm and McAvoy who can make those passes, but we're getting those entries with more speed and forcing the opposing team to hand-off responsibilities a lot more in those situations, as opposed to the relatively stagnant breakouts that we had the last couple years.
100% agree. The team is using more stretch passes in the DZ, fewer outlets along the boards, and has had a drastic reduction in dump outs. Part of that is personnel, but it's clearly a strategic change by the coaching staff, as well. Good offense starts in your own end.

is it Essensa magic?

All I would do is tip my hat to Goalie Bob. There's a reason he's been here forever and we never usually have goalie problems. Last year an "average" season was a bad one by previous standards set.
Ullmark's analytics were very strong with Buffalo, but he was a bit of an unorthodox goalie. Goalie Bob, who (as I have said previously) works as hard as anyone in that organization save Donnie (who lives eats and sleeps the game), spent significant time with him last year. It certainly appears to have paid off.