Pre-game preview: Round-Robin #1, BOS vs. PHL
Sections: Intro - Storylines - Lineups - By the Numbers - Tactics
Well, we got some #BruinsHockey on Thursday night and on Sunday we get the real thing...if a round-robin for seeding games count as the real thing. But it's 2020 and we truly need to be grateful for what we do have amongst so much loss around us. If you are a hockey fan, a jam-packed weekend of meaningful hockey sounds pretty juicy. Following a lackluster exhibition game, the Bruins open up the post-season(?) against the Philadelphia Flyers this Sunday. Let's dive into the matchup!
TOP 3 STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR
1. The Bruins Urgency - #BruinsTwitter and beat reporters questioned the Bruins spunk in a meaningless game against the Blue Jackets. The Bs cranking up the switch should quell some anxiousness amongst the fanbase. Expect the usually tenacious team to have no problem getting up for this one as they try and hold serve on their regular season top record.
2. Marchand's Injury - #63 exited the tune-up game before it's conclusion. Bs fans do not yet have an update on the injury. In the post-game presser, there was no panic for Coach Cassidy. What we can affirm is that Marchand's sense of humor was certainly not injured.
3. Tuukka Rask - Rask seems the most doubted multiple Stanley Cup-winning goalie this side of the Mississippi (Marc-Andre Fluery still has some haters). Tuukka is Vezina candidate this year after a monster playoffs last year. But he is a polarizing figure in #BruinsLand and his first-half performance on Thursday after some time away from practice is sure to worry fans. How will the Finnish netminder play in the first bit of real action?
The Bruins dominant first line ranks top on the league but will have it's hands full with a very strong Philly first line. Both centers are perennial Selke candidates with the younger Couturier finding a scoring touch as he enters the prime of his career. This head to head matchup should be an enjoyable battle and game within a game. Beyond the first line, the Flyers 4th line substantially outranks the Bruins bottom feeder 4th line but this should not impact the game a whole lot. Both teams boast some strong middle-six players in Krejci, Debrusk and Coyle for the Bruins while free-agent acquisitions JVR and Kevin Hayes provide secondary scoring for the Flyers and Scott Laughton is the most talented of the bottom line players in this contest and may slide up in the lineup for a few shifts.
Both teams boast strong D-cores. The Bruins have puck movers on all 3 pairs to key the transition. This will be important in this contest as discussed in our tactical section. Provorov and McAvoy may be the next generation of star two-way defenders. The Bruins boast a little more talent top to bottom but despite their average rating, Hagg and Braun will make the Bruins bottom-6 forwards earn their ice.
Tuukka Rask has the experience in these moments though he is coming off a busted digit and a tentative exhibition game. Carter Hart is the starter for Philly in this one and the youngster should be exciting to watch for a potential sleeper cup pick.
Lineups courtesy of dailyfaceoff.com
BY THE NUMBERS
The numbers suggest two teams that win in different ways. While not slouches on defense and with a pretty good D-core, the Flyers have the edge offensively by most metrics as they prioritize getting pucks up ice and into the offensive zone. The Bruins are much more staunch defensively giving up fewer opportunities, less dangerous opportunities, and stopping more of those opportunities. This allows the Bruins to win the overall battle of chances despite producing less overall offense. An impressive goal for percentage highlights this fact in the Bs favor.
In addition to a slight edge in overall even-strength metrics, the Bruins are the more prolific on special teams. The Flyers are just above average in both categories while the Bruins are elite and hope to pick up where they left off pre-pause.
Stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com
TACTICAL KEYS TO THE GAME
The Flyers are a team that relies on a heavy forecheck and really manages the puck carefully coming up the ice and through the neutral zone. If they cannot back you up with their speed, they will promptly dump the puck and make the defense turn around.
Charlie O'Connor of The Athletic details this identity implemented by new Head Coach Alain Vigneault in an article HERE. He additionally highlights how it's also created more opportunities to enter with puck possession with teams having to respect the Flyer's speed and ability to bit them to pucks. He points out and shares the following chart for evidence, showing how getting pucks in and applying physical pressure early on allows the team to enter with more control as the game moves along.
The Bruins need to be prepared from the game's outset to slow down the Flyer's speed through the neutral zone. Their D will need to pivot and quickly retreive pucks. While a lot of this falls on the D, it is imperative the forwards trackback and provides their back end with easy quick options to stifle the Flyers forecheck. If the Bruins can do so early on they should be able to get their counterattack going. If they fail to do so, the Bruins D will undoubtedly take some hits and they may find themselves on their heels a bit as the Flyers 4 strong forward lines continue to attack them with speed and physicality. Inevitably, that type of pressure can back you off over 60 minutes which could lead to increase pressure for the Flyers either in the transition or off the cycle.
Look for retrievals and quick breakouts to be the key to the Bruins' success in this contest.
What are your pre-game thoughts? Tell us in the comments.
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