Horton hammers upper-tier defenses, and other fun with numbers

Horton/By S. Bradley

Now that the Bruins’ season is past the one-third pole and the team has played every club in the Eastern Conference at least once, I thought it’d be interesting to crunch some numbers.

I wanted to see how the Bruins have fared this season against the seven other Eastern Conference playoff teams (entering Monday night’s action) and the other 14 teams in the top half of the league goals-against rankings. The Bruins have played games against nine of those 14 clubs.

What I found was that while the Bruins have the same record — 8-4-2 — against teams in the top and bottom half of the league D rankings, their record against playoff and non-playoff Eastern teams tells a different story.

Boston is just 6-5-1 vs. the other seven playoff teams, but 9-2-1 against Eastern teams that would be playing golf tomorrow if the season ended today. What’s the biggest difference? Well, it seems to be Tim Thomas vs. Tuukka Rask.

In games against the other playoff teams, Thomas is 6-0-1 with a .921 save percentage and 1.82 goals-against average, while Rask is 0-5-0 with a 3.32 and .904. In fairness, one of those games Rask went in in relief of Thomas after two periods, and the Bruins haven’t played their best in front of the sophomore netminder many times. But head coach Claude Julien might want to consider more Thomas when the opponent is a team that looks playoff-bound going forward.

When glancing at the offensive numbers, Nathan Horton obviously enjoys playing against the best defensive teams on the Bruins’ schedule. In those 14 games against top-15 defenses, he has posted 7-9-16 totals — all ahead of his pace overall this season. Against Eastern playoff teams, he has posted 5-5-10 totals in 12 games.

David Krejci has struggled to find the back of the net against the best defenses with no goals in 10 games (he has missed time with an injury). But he has 11 assists in those games. Interestingly enough, four of Michael Ryder’s eight goals this season have been scored against Eastern playoff teams, but only one has come against a top-half defense.

Zdeno Chara on the other hand, has scored four goals — all against East playoff teams, with three  against the best defenses. Leading scorer Milan Lucic’s numbers are hard to get a read on because of his four empty-net goals, three of which have come against top-half defenses (including two against Eastern playoff teams). However, he has still been solid with 7-7-14 totals in 12 games against potential playoff participants and 9-4-13 against the top-half defenses.

As a team, the Bruins are averaging 2.89 goals per game  in 28 games. Against the league’s best defenses, they average 2.93 goals per game. So the bottom line is, Boston’s offensive firepower revs up a little more against the toughest teams to score against.

And with a scoring average of 3.08 goals per contest against the other Eastern playoff teams, if the Bruins get the type of vaunted goaltending they’ve come to expect on a nightly basis, they’ll usually score enough to prevail against those rivals as well.

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