Eastern Conference Finals Breakdown; Part One

The Eastern Conference Finals have officially been set. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be hosting the Boston Bruins for the Prince of Whales Trophy. It is the first time since the ECF’s in 1992 that these two will meet in the playoffs.

It is a battle of eastern powerhouses that was predicted to occur when the season was just a few weeks old. The storylines have been exponentially building from then and in a perfect fashion, the media’s most wanted match up has happened.

Despite the big cities of Boston and New York playing in the Conference Semi-Finals, the media was struggling to grab hold of a tantalizing story. In the Boston and Pittsburgh matchup, they are fighting to get more paper space in which to write their stories.

Will the media address the elephants in the respective rooms? With Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow spurring the Bruins to become Penguins, it is sure to be a topic of whether or not these two had made the right decisions.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli continues to add fuel to this fire as well. After using a press conference post Iginla decision to explain how the Bruins had the deal in place, Chiarelli made his feelings clear on the situation, there was no professionalism involved in the dealing. He recently joked at a press conference when asked about the Penguins upcoming match up.

“They’re a lock right.”

Obviously this is nothing more than a quip or joke, but it does appear as if Boston believes they are an underdog. Either way, neither of these teams are interested in lip service at this point.

Then, there is the topic of former Penguin, now Bruin, Jaromir Jagr coming back into Pittsburgh for another playoff series. The enigmatic superstar Czech Republic native is quite possibly the greatest European born player to ever play in the NHL and yet, his name brings forth a shower of boos in the Steel City.

Then of course, we have the incident between Matt Cooke and Marc Savard. Savard was hit, in a blindsided fashion, by Matt Cooke in 2010. The hit gave Savard a concussion and to this day many blame that specific hit as the one that ended Savard’s career.

Even amongst all the talk one has to realize that this just isn’t a series of bad blood, it is one hell of a match up.
These are arguably the top teams from the Eastern Conference this season, despite Boston finishing fourth; many “experts” had them as the best behind Pittsburgh. It is a match up that includes star studded rosters, hall of fame veterans, and most importantly, two of the last four Stanley Cup Champions.

Trying to predict any playoff series is typically not my forte, instead I usually break down how to win a playoff series, but for this series I feel slightly confident. Let us take an in depth look at some of the major statistics from these two teams that are sure to allow us to make an educated prediction.

Offense – We might as well start where I am most comfortable. As a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I have become accustomed to strong offenses over the years and have developed a healthy obsession with creative offensive teams. In this upcoming series, we are going to see some of the more creative offensive teams currently in the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins rank number one and number two in the league, respectively, in goals per game average. So far in these playoffs the Pittsburgh Penguins sport an unreal 4.27 goals per game.  The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, maintain an impressive 3.17 goals per game.

So both teams have consistently found the back of the net and it is not hard to see why.

Goal Category

5 on 5

5 on 4

5 on 3

4 on 4

4 on 5

Empty Net

Total

Pittsburgh Penguins

30

12

1

2

2

0

47

Boston Bruins

27

7

0

1

1

2

38

 

Judging by the basic statistics of goals scored, we can see that there are not many situations these teams have not capitalized on. In eleven and twelve games respectively for these clubs we see that they excel in the five on five situations, each averaging at least 2.25 even strength goals per game. They also rank one and two respectfully as the leaders in 5 on 5 for and against (a combined stat of goals for and goals against while five on five).  

It is this impressive attack while at even strength that had each club coast through their semi final matchups. The difference maker in the offensive category for the upcoming series will be Pittsburgh Power Play.

Currently producing goals at a rate of 28.3%, the Penguins are widely considered the deadliest power play in the game. They have thirteen total goals while on a power play of some sorts and these thirteen goals have come from 7 different players.

The Bruins power play is producing at a rate of 21.9%, which is very strong in the playoffs thus far, totaling seven total goals while on the power play. These seven goals have come from 4 players as well, which is similar to Pittsburgh, showing equal depth on the power play.

We mentioned the dynamic capabilities of these offensive teams while five on five and up a man or two, but it might be their non-traditional offensive production that has teams on edge. The Boston Bruins currently have 38 goals in the playoffs, of said 38 goals, 13 have come from defensemen. Not only is the thirteen goals by defensemen the flat out best, they have the best percentage of goals by defensemen by a long shot.

This might not seem to be anything more than just a fun stat but consider this, the Bruins use of bigger and more defensive forwards keeps the opposing forwards in a tight checking game. It limits defensive breakdowns and scoring chances. If ones defensemen can also score while executing this game plan, the opposing forwards have to play a much tighter, more puck possession oriented game. It is very difficult to maintain such an effort over three games which can explain the success of the Bruins over the past few seasons.

The Penguins dynamic offensive ability comes from supreme talent at the forward position. The Penguins currently have four players who have scored at least four goals while at even strength. This is compared to just two with Boston, both had four goals while Pittsbugh’s Crosby and Dupuis had 5 even strength goals apiece and James Neal and Evgeni Malkin had 4. Pittsburgh also has the two goal scoring leaders of the playoffs in Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis who share the lead with 7 goals each.

While everything in the offensive category seems to fall within relative range of one another, it is simply too difficult to give the advantage to any team over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are the most dominant offensive force in the playoffs thus far and do not look as though they will be slowing down any time soon.  

Advantage – Pittsburgh Penguins

Part two of defense and surprising stats to be out tomorrow.