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Shots aren't the full story, Blues/Bruins trade quality chances in Blues w

June 9, 2019, 1:06 AM ET [6 Comments]
Jason Millen
St Louis Blues Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

The relentless Blues took one more step in their quest for the franchise’s 1st ever Stanley Cup on Thursday night, defeating the Bruins in Boston by a score of 2-1. The win improved the Blues record to 7-1 in Games 5, 6 and 7 while dropping the Bruins to 4-2 in their Games 5, 6, and 7.

Jordan Binnington stopped 38 of 39 shots, raising his save percentage in Games 5, 6 and 7 to 95.4% while Tuukka Rask only stopped 19 of 21 and lowered his to 94.4%.

As Public Enemy was prone to sing, don’t believe the hype. Sure the Bruins outshot the Blues 17-8 in the 1st period but the quality chances were pretty equal as the teams seemed to trade them back and forth. It wasn't nearly as lopsided as much of the media and/or social media seemed to imply.

The Bruins got the 1st quality chance about five minutes in when Sean Kuraly had a good opportunity after getting to a Brad Marchand rebound but Kuraly's shot attempt hit bodies in front of the net and never got to the net.

Around 30 seconds later, the Blues had a good chance but Ivan Barbashev’s pass was behind Alex Pietrangelo who was driving the lane to the far post. As a result, they didn’t even generate a shot.

About eight minutes in, Jordan Binnington made a high quality save on Charlie Coyle from the low slot. Less than two minutes later, Zach Sanford would have a brilliant chance in the low slot thanks to a great pass from Ryan O’Reilly but Rask made a great, right leg pad save on the one-timer.

About two minutes later, Tyler Bozak may actually have scored after one-timing Pat Maroon’s pass from behind the net. The only camera angle that showed how the puck may have crossed the line was the very last angle NBC showed, showing it only once. On that replay, you can see the puck gets all the way down to Rask’s skate as the leg pad is sealing off against the ice. Unfortunately for the Blues, Toronto was not able to see where the puck actually was in relation to the goal line because the leg pad hid the puck from view, so the call on the ice stood. Bozak must have been frustrated with himself as pretty much all of Rask’s five hole was wide open and he missed hitting his spot.

A little over 12 minutes into the period, Binnington stopped David Pastrnak’s one timer but the save was made easier because the pass across was short, meaning Binnington didn’t need to move much to get square to the shooter. The more dangerous chance was the rebound but Patrice Bergeron whiffed on the rebound as he was streaking in on left wing.

Binnington then made a good stop on Brandon Carlo on a play that seemed to get a heap of praise both on the broadcast and on social media. While Binnington moved well to track the play and make the save, the movement and circumstance of this shot and the one by Pastrnak earlier make these more routine saves than highlight reel saves. In this case, the cross ice pass to Carlo was slow and bouncing, allowing Binnington plenty of time to get square to Carlo, removing a lot of the danger from the chance. By the time Carlo shot the puck, he was pretty wide of the net and deeper into the zone, making it more of a routine save.

About 14 minutes into the period, Jay Bouwmeester would make a great read and cut to the slot, giving him a brilliant chance that Rask turned aside. About a minute later, Brad Marchand hit the post.

Shortly after Marchand’s post, Alexander Steen had a glorious chance around the face-off hash mark, partially because Charlie McAvoy had lost his stick, but Rask was more than equal to the task.

Pastrnak’s had a chance with under 3:30 left but again it was easier to stop for Binnington because the pass from Krejci was so slow. The slow pass again gave him plenty of time to get square before turning the shot into a more routine shot.

Marchand was called for slashing with 2:38 left in the 1st period it was more like a spear. On the ensuing power play, O’Reilly had a good look from the right faceoff dot. Later, Perron has a goal on his stick but instead of putting the shot near the post, he shoots the puck back into the middle of the net and into Rask. Rask did well to get over and take up as much net as he did but this was poor shot placement.

This chance and Bozak’s chance were the two best chances in the period in my humble opinion.

The Blues had a great start to the 2nd period with Vladimir Tarasenko getting a partial breakaway just 10 seconds in. Rask was equal to the task and the rebounds turned into blocked shots.

As play continued, Patrice Bergeron stole the puck from David Perron along the wall and pushed it up the boards to Pastrnak. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Pastrnak misses the puck and possession is given away. The Blues quickly convert the turnover into a goal.

Watch the pass by Sanford and the backhander by O’Reilly even closer

The Blues almost ended the second period the same way they started it, with a goal. In the waning seconds of the 2nd period, David Krejci would save a goal, making diving save to prevent an easy goal for Alex Pietrangelo. Much like Perron, Pietrangelo shot back to the middle of the net which cost him a goal.

The shots normalized in the 2nd period with the Bruins having the slight advantage, 8-6.

The Blues would double their lead midway through the period on a goal by David Perron. Perron tries to feed Bozak the puck twice. The 1st pass is blocked back to him and the 2nd pass goes off Rask’s leg and into the net.

(Note that I went to the San Jose Sharks class on video clipping). Here is another angle illustrating how Rask had no chance to save it.

The Bruins cut the lead in half about three minutes later on a goal by Jake DeBrusk. Note how Binnington seems to lose his balance a little and more importantly misses his angle after the puck has moved down low. Note also how the Blues outnumber the Bruins five to three but their coverage and communication is poor.

The Blues would survive the remaining Bruins pushes with Carl Gunnarsson making a big clear as you can see here:

Let’s revisit the notion that I have been hearing from some that said the Bruins dominated the 1st period. They controlled play but the quality chances were pretty even. Those of you that have been reading me for a while have likely seen me reference figures lie and liars figure as well as the idea that “advanced” statistics as they stand now aren’t very advanced and often will lead you to incorrect conclusions without using other data points to look at the overall picture.

In my opinion, the Bruins’ domination is a lazy narrative, perhaps based on corsi or the like. While many claim corsi to be an “advanced statistic”, it’s really just an easy compilation of the simple statistic of shots which has significant limitations such as treating all shots as equal and sometimes questionable shot counts. Even more importantly, what should be more advanced statistics such as high, mid and low danger shots and chances are still too simplistic, often leading to poor conclusions when looked at without enough other data.

As an example, naturalstattrick.com reports that in the 1st period of Game 5, the Blues only had one high danger chance while the Bruins had five. The Blues had at least four high danger chances from Bozak, Perron, Bouwmeester, and Sanford. Which one of Bozak or Perron’s chances got the lone high danger categorization by them? You can’t really trust the data unless you created it yourself, which is something the teams are likely doing.

Yes, I ignored the Bozak trip, the Ivan Barbashev head shot and the Zach Sanford head shot. Giving the one game suspension to Barbashev seemed right to me given the other supplemental discipline they have awarded. Similary, not having any discipline for the other two plays also seems consistent based on what I have seen. For more on these, see the comment sections of my blog or Anthony’s.

I’ll be back with another blog tomorrow morning going over more Game 5 notes and expected lineups for Game 6. I’m assuming Grizzy and Thomas will both be back.

It’s a great day for hockey.

NHL Champions for Charity Playoff Edition
In what I hope becomes a Hockeybuzz tradition, Bruins Hockeybuzz writer Anthony Travalgia and I placed a wager on the series. If the Blues win, Anthony has agreed to make a donation to the Gateway Area Multiple Sclerosis Society (@mssociety on twitter) whose mission is help each person affected by MS in St. Louis address the challenges of living with MS. They help by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward. I picked this charity to honor Blues anthem singer, Charles Glenn. Read more about Charles’ battle with MS here. If the Bruins win, I will donate to the JDRF (@JDRF on twitter) whose mission is improve lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications.

Sharks Hockeybuzz writer Steve Palumbo and I placed a wager on the series. Since the Blues won, Steve should be making a donation to the Gateway Area Multiple Sclerosis Society (@mssociety on twitter) whose mission is help each person affected by MS in St. Louis address the challenges of living with MS. They help by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward. I selected the MS Society to honor St. Louis Blues Anthem singer Charles Glenn. Read more about Charles here.

I hope that our wagers will inspire players and fans to pledge donations for each win their team makes in the NHL playoffs.

NHL Champions for Charity Regular Season
Given that the Predators pulled out the division title, all be it not without some controversial officiating in the last couple of games, Best Buddies Tennessee https://www.bestbuddies.org/tennessee/ is the beneficiary. Best Buddies Tennessee is dedicated to establishing a volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a side note, I recently got to experience a Best Buddies even in the St. Louis area that was led by the Eureka high school football team. It was a lot of fun and brought a lot of joy to those involved.

It’s a great day for hockey.
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